But back to that sidrería
in Cudillero. For it is here, in the cider bars themselves, that the appreciation of this honey-coloured liquid is elevated to an art form. While the drink itself (around 6% ABV, or similar to a strong beer) is pretty ‘still’, it tastes much better when oxygenated. So you will often see a skilful escanciador
(a cider-pouring waiter or barman) artfully decanting the drink, with the bottle at full stretch above his head and the glass down below waist level, in order to impart a little fizz.
But don’t worry: there’s no expectation that you should be able to do this yourself. (Of course, you can try, but it’s a skill
that is a lot trickier than it looks!) No, it’s a chance for the bar staff to demonstrate their skills, honed over many years (and generations). They seem to barely even look
at the glass or bottle as they pour, and are as likely to be chatting to a friend or regular customer over their shoulder as concentrating on what they’re doing. (Take a look at this short video
to see an escanciador
As well as the apparent nonchalance of the display, the type of glass is also significant. Short and stubby in appearance, a wide, flat-bottomed variety seems to work best, and is again designed to maximise the cider’s fizz when poured from on high. Only a small amount (about one-fifth of a glass) is poured each time, with the drinker savouring the shot (culete
) in one go, before the fizz has had a chance to subside.
When drinking with friends, as I witnessed back at that bar, it is traditional to not only pour the cider for yourselves, but also to use just one glass. Each person leaves a little cider in the bottom before throwing it out onto the floor to ‘clean’ the glass for the next person to drink. This is why you will often notice a covering of sawdust on the floor of the most traditional sidrerías
, and why the ritual can often appear to be – as it did to me – a kind of communal revelry which is more akin to a group hug than a mere meeting of friends.
So, the best way to appreciate Asturian cider for yourself is to get stuck in: head over to northern Spain, get along to a traditional sidrería
… and start drinking.