Who gave that guy a plate of burning booze? This is clearly no English restaurant brought to its knees by the demands of Health and Safety. Absolutely not: this is a cremat, served up at a lovely restaurant in Calella de Palafrugell.

Had that burning bowl lost control and erupted over the tablecloth, I had nothing to fear because the Mediterranean Sea was lapping almost at my ankles, and I could have thrown the whole fiery dish into its waves. Obviously trying to avoid the holidaymakers out for an evening stroll along the shore. For Calella is a gorgeous little seaside town on the Costa Brava.

Cremat is a drink that you can only get on the Costa Brava, and Calella de Palafrugell is particularly renowned for it. They usually serve it in cauldrons on the street, but you can order it in restaurants too. It is served at the end of the meal, whereupon they bring out a terracotta dish. Some places ignite it close enough to frizzle your nasal hair. At our restaurant, it was already merrily ablaze when the waiter brought it to our table.

Hypnotised, I stared at the flames for a moment. Finally, I asked the waiter, “what do I do now?”

Cremat is not like a Christmas pudding that is lit and extinguished in a moment. Far from it. You have to stir this potent brew with a ladle for ten minutes before you are allowed to drink it.

Depending on how much of the liquor you sweep into the air, it will either flare up blue or orange. The flames leap up quite high, which I would have found quite alarming, had I not previously fortified myself with a bottle of the local wine (“a bit raw but drinkable with a meal”, as my guidebook assured me).

As you stir the potion, its various potent ingredients spice up the air. Inside the dish, I could see lemon peel and cinnamon sticks, and I think that both rum and brandy were swilling around in there too. After the ten minutes have elapsed, you take a little cup of espresso and then pour it into the pot. This bonds with the other ingredients as well as extinguishing the flame. Then at last, you can finally sup the concoction that you have so carefully prepared.

Cremat is very potent indeed and two people can ladle out plenty of of cupfuls from the bowl. It wasn’t cheap at €18, but that was probably €3 for the alcohol, €1 for the coffee and €14 to cover the company’s fire insurance.

Sharing a cremat is an experience that is popular with tourists and locals alike. When we left, we saw an elderly couple gazing over their own blazing dish. The woman was stirring, while her wild-eyed husband egged her on with a firm cry of “fot-li canya!”, which could be translated as “give it some stick!” Leaving them behind, we saw the fire flickering from blue to orange and back again, as it flared up against the night sky.

8 responses to “Cremat

  1. Fishermen en Catalania probably developed a liking for rum at the end of 19th century, when many Catalans went to Cuba to set up a bussiness. Cuba loves rum as much as Catalonia loves fire. Mix them up and you’ve got a ‘cremat’.
    The link is for a short video on how to make a ‘cremat’. If you feel like trying, just do it outdoors!

    • Cool link – thanks! Interesting that they use orange peel there. I’m not sure about that blow torch though. It doesn’t seem very safe to me…but then, as you say, you Catalans do love playing with fire!

  2. ‘What do I do now?’, this is hands down the best thing I have read on over 70 blogs i have so far hit tonight. This is added to the must try list that I have just made up.

    • Wow, thanks! It is definitely a must try, especially if you can get down to Callela de Palafrugell itself. It’s lovely, but a bit pricey (I could only stay three nights). The cremat is great fun, but it might be a bit dangerous if they brought it to the UK, and started putting it in front of us tanked-up Brits!

  3. Marvelous! (But how does it taste? Or is that irrelevant?!) I could see one getting into trouble with this one, all right, especially if, umm, pre-warmed-up with lesser liquors. I have several friends who would be keen to replicate this recipe in their own special way – I will have to tip them off. For outdoor experimentation only, I’m thinking. 🙂

    • The funny thing is that even though we’re having cremat outdoors in the picture, they make it inside the restaurant and light it while they’re still inside! No health and safety worries there.
      It tastes a bit like roasted coffee in brandy if I remember rightly and you have it at the end of the meal (as the waiter politely informed me as I ordered it at the beginning). If you watch the video in Carme’s comment above, you’ll see that they often make it in huge cauldrons and then hand out a cupful to people in the street. It is great fun, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it at home!