Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Asturias – Sidre (cider)

Asturias is all about cider. It’s an integral part of the drinking culture and one that the people here are extremely proud of.

I am not an expert in the process of making it but the drink is similar to the cider in England. With one VERY important difference. Here the cider has to be poured from high up. This is to break the drink up and to release all the flavour. Here in Asturias pouring cider is perfected by the waiters as an art form. The older ones pour the cider, look in another direction while chatting nonchalantly to one of the customers.
This is how it looks.

It’s highly amusing to watch them pouring the drink. Since we moved here we have been watching the waiters with Paul and trying to figure out their secret. We noticed that after they lift up the bottle they have a quick look at the glass in their other hand, look away then listen to the sound. If the drink doesn’t end up in the glass they quickly correct it.

Yes, it does splash all over the customers but it’s so worth the inconvenience! You can always spot a sidreria as the floor is full of spilt sider. Quite a lot of the drink goes wasted on the floor. Usually they turn away though to spare you from the splashes for the frustration of the tourists whose camera is poised ready to take a video.

The other thing about the sidre is that they only pour you about an inch, this is called a culín. They don´t put the glass on the table in front of you but give it straight to your hand as you are expected to ´sink it´, to drink the whole thing at once. This is because apparently if you wait then the taste changes and it won´t be as fresh as the freshly ‘broken’ one. We have seen many Spanish throw the last sips away. This bar even has a drain at the bottom for this reason.

You are not expected to do it for yourself, of course. When you´re ready to drink you just have to say ‘un culín, por favor’ to the waiter who will come to pour it for you. This means that the waiters here have a really hard job. They not only have to serve the food for you but pour a sidre as well every time somebody wants to have a drink. We kind of felt sorry for them first but then realised they enjoy almost a celebrity status here with the tourists. I bet there are more pictures and videos of the waiters here than of the statues of the town!

I have heard though that the young people in Gijón (a seaside town in Asturias) just pour it for themselves, they don’t need a waiter to do it for them. It was confirmed when I went to visit with two other friends. They just gave us the bottle with a glass (for two people! Have they heard about hygiene in this country?!) to share and to our horror we were expected to pour the drink ourselves! They cut out a bit out of the cork then put it back in the glass halfway to help us, though. Here’s me having a go at it.

They usually do the pouring at the outside tables. On the inside usually there’s a machine to do it for you, I guess it’s to keep the floor clean and not to make a mess inside. These are very ingenious things and they either have a counter that counts the number of consumed culín or you get a card and they put money on it equivalent to the price of the desired amount of culínes.

In Oviedo there’s a whole road or boulevard dedicated to cider! This is where most people come to have a drink. They all serve a different brand and it’s interesting to try a few just to compare them. They all taste slightly different. At the end of the road there’s a HUGE barrel. A famous cider making family put it there to stand as homage to the culture of cider making.

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