I will tell you a few things about Aliñao!

I will tell you a few things about Aliñao!
Fecha de publicación: 
21 March 2023
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In 2019, the province of Granma earned the privilege of hosting the July 26 Day and authorities invited me to attend the festivities for the celebration of the National Rebellion Day. It was my first time in Bayamo.

Those five days had to be enough to share my work duties with my eagerness of getting to know this seductive city better. The thing is that the second village founded in Cuba — November 5, 1513, by Diego Velazquez— treasures all the possible singularities to fascinate you. It boasts an incredible historical, cultural, and traditional richness.

Guided by excellent colleagues and hosts, I visited museums, galleries, squares, parks, theaters, the boulevard, tourist, cultural and historical sites; but also, and above all, a generous dose of traditions and legends that makes San Salvador de Bayamo the place to which you want to return.

There were also popular festivities, the famous car rides, and obviously, the tasting of the aliñao, the ancient and famous liquor present in the most important celebrations in Granma and other eastern regions.

Some experts date the origin of the drink back to the 18th century, or the beginning of the 19th century, and it was first made by slaves. According to what is said, they made it from the so-called agualoja, which is prepared with cinnamon, anise and boiled fig leaves with pilon sugar or cane scraping.

Once cooled, they added brandy. Later, they began to add fruits such as plums, pineapple in small pieces, raisins, currants, figs, cherries..., candied in syrup. This led to “agualoja aliñada” or “el aliñao” with which different festivities were cheered up.

Protected by generations of people from Granma, today the aliñao boasts its patrimonial lineage. It is the protagonist in the most important family toasts, whether it is when a baby is born, on the fifteen-year anniversary of the son or daughter, or at weddings.

The manufacturing process usually begins through a "sacred" ritual, after a woman at home announces her pregnancy. From then on, the family begins cooking the different fruits with sugar. The mixture is placed in a carafe and bits of cane and alcohol or brandy are added.

 At the end of this phase, some people choose to bury the glass container; others only place it covered in a dry and dark place. During the long months of pregnancy, the macerated ingredients become a peculiar delicacy with many toasts to entertain.

The little glasses sound again and again among relatives and visitors who come to meet the newborn. As part of the custom, they say, if the baby is female, a bottle is usually kept to be uncorked on the day the girl turns 15 years old. Meanwhile, other toasts will delight.


In the summer of 2018, singer-songwriter Raúl Torres "dug up" his nostalgia for his homeland and created a project, pure culture and tradition. There was a toast that day as “Fiesta del Aliñao” was born. Many friends, musicians, singers, poets..., came to celebrate with the people of Bayamo.

For three days, the revelry floods the city of Bayamo and other nearby communities with theoretical events, troubadour jam sessions, concerts and many activities for entertainment.

And even though Covid-19 paused celebrations, new editions of Fiesta del Aliñao will be surely seasoned with tradition and ancestral values. Tradition will certainly prevail, together with that crystal-made recipient and syrupy fruits.

While the tradition takes its roots very deep, personally I keep a bottle of aliñao brought as a souvenir from my trip to Granma. From time to time, I put in it some cherries and plums from my backyard cooked in syrup, as well as bits of cane and brandy, as the recipe dictates.

A drink is always good to toast to life!

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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