Cider isn’t simply the most popular alcoholic drink in Asturias, it’s more of a religion and as such it’s essential to know a few things before you even attempt to drink a glass.
I’d been told that cider was popular in Asturias, but it was only after I visited town after town filled with sidrería (cider bar) after sidrería that I realised just how popular. In one I overheard a conversation about some friends who had evidently strayed from the beaten path and – shock, horror – asked for mojitos.
“They ordered cocktails?” One cider drinker gasped, before adding incredulously. “In a cider bar?”
It was the source of so much amusement amongst the Spanish in the bar that I realised to order anything other than cider in a cider bar just wasn’t the norm. But before you head confidently up to a bar in Asturias and order a glass of cider it’s essential to know a bit more about the etiquette concerning drinking a glass or two of the Asturians’ favourite tipple.
How to Drink Cider in Asturias
First up is you don’t order a glass, you order a bottle.
The second thing is that you don’t simply uncork the bottle and pour it into the glass; oh no…that would be far too simple.
To unlock the flavour of the cider you need to hold the bottle in one hand, high above your head, and hold the glass (a special wide brimmed cider glass) in the other hand about thigh height…and at roughly a 45 degree angle (just to make things a bit more interesting).
You then pour the cider from this great height so that a stream hits the inside rim of the glass until there’s around 2 inches worth into the bottom (stick with me, there’s a reason for this).
Pouring cider this way aerates it, releasing bubbles. It’s at this point that the cider tastes at its best. The fizz doesn’t last long so the glass has to be downed in a oner…save for a little drop in the bottom which is poured onto the floor (seriously), a bucket, or a little channel that runs the length of the bar counter.
Pouring cider onto the floor isn’t as yobbish as it sounds. In days gone by when there weren’t enough glasses to go around, people had to pass the glass on. When the cider is poured on the floor, it’s poured over the part of the rim where the last person to use it drank from; it’s basically a means of sterilisation. There are plenty of glasses to go round these days but that little tradition still prevails. The floors of many bars are covered in sawdust to soak up the spilt cider. The ones that aren’t can end up like sticky swimming pools by the end of the evening.
And just to confuse the issue, the pouring on to the floor bit doesn’t happen in the poshest restaurants, so lots of scope for embarrassing faux pas’ then.
In reality it’s only experienced waiters, and brave souls, who pour their cider from a great height. Most people only hold the bottle a couple of feet from the glass.
However, there is a much easier way to enjoy cider in Asturias; ask the waiter to pour for you. That way you don’t end up with a sodden left arm…plus you get to take a photo of one of the great Spanish drinking traditions. On the other hand you could always just ask for a mojito…
Buzz Trips Favourite Sidrería in Asturias: Casa Lin in Alivés – sawdust, cider & seafood; a great combo.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+