There’s a lot to love about drinking in Lisbon. First are the rooftop bars and goldfish bowl gin & tonics infused with spices (usually cinnamon) and some fruit and citrus.
The wines of the Duoro are amazing. The much maligned green wine – vinho verdhi – which isn’t actually green but sharp and refreshing is perfect for a summer’s evening.
Everyone loves port but do you really want to drink a rich aged deep red port mid-summer?
I became addicted to dry white port, ice cold straight from the fridge. I think there is a savoury umaminess to it, oakiness of the barrel, and a slight sweetness. It’s a very enticing aperitif or finish to the day.
We found that there wasn’t much difference in wine quality between paying some €15 in an upmarket bottle shop or €5 from the supermarket chain Pingo Dolce – where the house branded wine for just a few euro are sensational value.
What will surprise you is the price of having a drink in a bar. The Portuguese version of GST is 23% (vs 10% in Australia). Also in the main tourist zones you pay tourist prices. And the centre of Lisbon is a tourist zone. A gin & tonic fish bowl can easily set you back €10 or more depending on the bar.
There are plenty of good bottle shops to stock up on local booze, the largest being local chain being Garrafeira Nacional. I found myself completely out of my Australian comfort zone of knowing exactly what I want to drink and how and when I want to go off piste.
In Portugal I know nothing so relied on the local bottle shop staff at the Time Out Market outlet of Garrafeira Nacional. My best score was a José Maria de Fonseca José de Susa Alentejano Red Blend 2012. Portugal is a country using traditional winemaking techniques and is yet to join the rush to make natural wines. However, this red made within an hour of Lisbon with a blend of traditionally fermented grapes and amphora fermented comes with a bit of funk and at €7 was good value compared to what else was on offer.
There are also plenty of wine bars with huge collections of local vinhos, the whole country being a patchwork of wine regions. These bars are largely designed for tourists, which doesn’t mean they are bad. It means that to go through a tasting of some really good local wines you’ll easily be paying over €10 a glass (NB: we budgeted €65 a day for all food and wine so were constrained and drank a lot of suprmarket Pingo Dolce own label wine to help budget for more expensive days).
Jardim do Príncipe Real kiosk
Lisbon is full of kiosks and this is one of the better known (pictured above). You can drop in for coffee in the morning or a drink at night – as the locals do on their way home from work. Try an ice cold beer or wine – from the cask for €1.50 , which isn’t sneered at in Europe. You’ll simply be drinking the “house wine”. There’s real a buzz on Friday evenings and after work hours. If you see a kiosk anywhere, drop-in and try it.
Time Out Market
There are stalls specialising in wine, G&Ts, Tequila and the local cherry liquor, Ginjinha (which I’m more than happy to avoid. It reminds me of cough syrup). With large share tables that can accommodate around 1,000 people there is always somewhere to sir or lean – and plenty of tapas or larger mains to soak up the alcohol.
The Garrafeira Nacional stall here is a great stop for local wines and it has a stack of aged ports costing a small fortune. The José de Susa Alentejano Red Blend mentioned above at €7 was one the the cheapest in the shop.
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
R. São Pedro de Alcântara, 1200-470 Lisboa
Just a 5 minute walk along the flat from Jardim do Pricipe Real, this Miradouro has a wonderful view across the city and hosts two kiosks and plenty of events through summer. Stop off for a coffee in the morning or a beer in the evening and enjoy the view.
R. António Maria Cardoso 58, 1200-330 Lisboa
The latest offering from Portuguese celebrity chef José Avillez, Minibar is a casual eatery and bar that serves great cocktails. It’s also a good place to try Avillez’s food with a matched selection of local wines. My first impression was we were back to the noughties with a tasting menu that included a version of the famous 2005 Ferran Adria spherified olive and a Caipirinha encased in white chocolate. But subsequent dishes that brought together Asian influences really impressed me – see my upcoming Lisbon food post for a full review of his food. His other Lisbon restaurants are all nearby – Belcanto, Avillez the Corner, Coffee Lisbon, and Lisbon Pizzeria.
The Old Pharmacy
83, R. do Diário de Notícias 73, Lisboa
With a view over the River Tagus, you can sit at a shady table above the buzz of people at the local Miradouro. The barman hear was particularly proud of his gin & tonic here served with a dehydrated slice of grapefruit and a sliver of lemon rind.
R. Mal. Saldanha 1, Lisboa
A neon lit old pharmacy, this backstreet bar has a large selection of regular and fortified wines by the glass. The night we were there the resident drug dealer taunted us for nearly an hour. Fortified wines were victors over caution and we snorted a sample around the corner. It was just “shit” rather than “good shit”. It reminded me that drugs mostly aren’t worth it. Not to be repeated.
NB: Drugs are decriminalised for personal use in Portugal meaning the government prefers to push drug users towards the health system rather than the criminal system. Everyday somebody tried to sell me coke and what looked like cat shit.
Calçada do Combro, 58 Bairro Alto Lisbon
There are no signs to this carpark rooftop bar. Simply enter the carpark stairwell and hope the lift is working. It’s packed most nights and has one of the best sunset views in Lisbon. Again, the goldfish bowl G&Ts are a must or a simple jug of sangria. Arrive early for a guaranteed seat or hang around as people do move on quickly.
Praça Martim Moniz, Lisboa
Suprise, surprise. More G&Ts here. Topo has one of the best panoramic views across the city with an interesting restaurant attached. It’s hard to find but but worth the detour.
R. Dom Pedro V 129, 1250-096 Lisboa
Currently one of the hottest restaurants in Lisbon, you can also grab just a drink and a snack in the street. Try either their Pisco Sour or, you guessed it, their G&Ts. It’s worth eating here too.
BA Wine Bar do Bairro Alto
R. da Rosa 107, 1200-382 Lisboa
An absolutely brilliant collection of local wines, all available by the glass and some local cheese. They are really helpful and will come over with several bottles to try before you choose. Expect to pay €10+ for many of the wines taking it up to and over Australian price levels.
Eating in Lisbon coming next.