Sidra (cider) is a big deal in Northern Spain, and Asturias lays claim to 80% of all Spanish cider production – it has the climate to suit it. And its people have the appetite to match it – the average Asturian consumes roughly 50 litres per annum.
Cider-making is an age-old tradition here – it’s part of Asturias’ Celtic identity – but became a larger-scale industry from the mid-19th century onwards. Naturally fermented, with no added sugar or sweeteners, it has a distinctly dry taste.
The way to enjoy this still and cloudy amber drink takes some practice. One person pours just a small amount of cider from above head-height into a thin-glassed tumbler (this method is called escanciar). The idea is to aerate the liquid to bring out its taste, plus add some fizz. The floor receives a good dousing too.
A thin glass is supposed to oxidise the sidra (a notion competitively disagreed with by cider-drinkers of the Basque country).
The pourer passes the glass to his or her neighbour, who immediately gulps down the sidra in one swift mouthful, leaving a little to tip out onto the ground (some believe this is a Celtic tradition of giving back to the earth). The glass is refilled and then offered to the next person. It’s a wonderful way to share an ancient drink.
We tried escanciar – and failed.
But we know that this is how it should be done.
There are many detailed and authoritative articles on Asturian cider if you’d like to learn more, but nothing beats sampling it (after a try at escanciar ) for yourself.