Well it was a new one on me when we ventured to the verdant Spanish region of Asturias. On our first evening in llanus (pronounced) Janus, we were scouting for somewhere to eat when we first experienced Sidra, the local term for Cider. But Sidra isn’t just a drink (and I mean no offense to any cider lovers) it’s a wonderful social tradition in this expansive Northern corner of Spain.
Sidra is a combination of a beautiful drink served in a way that dates back generations and it is at the very heart of the community. Let’s start with the “drink”, it’s a basic cider made from local pressed apples. It’s brewed locally and is served in rather simple functional green bottles, the make doesn’t really matter for it is fairly utilitarian beverage, albeit a very good one. The difference is, and this is the key, the Sidra is only gently fermented and does not produce a strong gas, it’s almost flat and has a very strong unsweetened almost soft apple juice taste.
Sidra is always served in a traditional glass, and one that we recognised instantly, it has always been one of our favourite glasses but we loved it before we realised its other context. The glass is what you would call a beautifully proportioned simple tumbler, about 10cm tall and 7cm wide across the diameter. It’s a man size handful and is made more or less like a wine glass with a very fine thin glass. We have always loved them and use them as daily tumblers. LSA sells them as the GIO Tumbler and they were a great seller at The Conran Shop, but they have deep routes as the humble Sidra glasses.
What happens next is where the magic starts; the Sidra is always poured in small servings because the pouring creates a very gentle fizz. It’s an art but easy to master, hold the bottle as high as you possible can, generally in your right hand above your head. Then with the glass as close to the floor as you can go, aim to pour the Sidra in a “splash” into your glass. Depending on your height the Sidra will free-fall some four or five feet and most of it will end up in the glass. Don’t worry if you splash some on the floor, that’s part of the theatre.The key is only to pour a couple of inches, enough to drink before the bubbles disappear.
But here is the charming part, you pour for your friend(s), sharing both the glass and the bottle. When you have finished your serving, leave just a splash, swirl it in the glass and gently twist the glass washing out the excess onto the ground. The point of the twist is to make sure the excess washes the lip of the glass where your mouth has been before passing the glass on.
What was it that captivated me? The glass, the Sidra, the performance yes, but most of all the deep community tradition that is embued in Asturians. And this is not a show for the tourists; this is how it is done, day in day out.
Thank you to Mauro, a proud Asturian.