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prior to visiting portugal, the only cultural references i could make were those of portugese water dogs and linguiça.  however, maritime exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries earned this western-most european country the honour of first and longest-lived global empire in the world. portugal’s international powerhouse status may have tempered since its glory days, but a happenstance of flight routing brought me to lisbon for a short vacay. my first misconception upon arrival into the city was that you can get by in portugal by speaking some basic spanish.  so not true.  be that as it may, we eventually found our sea legs, ate our fair share of bacalhau, and in no time, were in pursuit of my first international taste of fernet.  research resulting from wide-eyed jetlag led me down lisbon’s narrow cobblestone streets to bar snob in the bairro alto district. after ringing a buzzer for entrance (american speakeasys ain’t got nothin’ on the euros), we were led into a dimly lit parlour of velvet-upholstered antique furnishings that felt more like an estate library than a bar.  the concept of mixing fernet with coke must not have caught on in europe yet, because only after much questioning did i received a mini-bottle of coke and and glass of ice to accompany my apertif.  at that point, the bar owner of 43 years disappeared into the woodwork of this un-pretentious establishment, providing quiet solace from a busy tourism whirlwind and my first real sense of home in one of the oldest cities in the world.

first fernet in foreign lands