Hard cider might just be coming onto the scene in the U.S., but in the Asturias region of Spain, hard cider has been king for centuries. In Comarca de la Sidra (Cider Region), forget wine and beer. When you sidle up to a bar, you better be prepared to ask for sidra and get ready for quite a show.
We say that because there's great pomp and circumstance in consuming Asturias cider -- an alcoholic drink that officially can be made from only 22 apple varieties as designated by the European Union. First, you must order a whole bottle, so it's a great time to bring along some friends (or make new ones). Second, you'll have to let an Asturian bartender open and correctly pour for you. Sidra must be poured a great height so that bubbles are naturally added, through aeration, and bartenders hold the bottle above their head and aim into a glass below their waist. The glass is tipped at an angle for proper bubble-making. And, yes, it's as difficult as it sounds; don't try this at home.
Once you have your glass in your hands, Asturias cider is meant to be consumed quickly, because the taste will change when the bubbles escape. This, after all, isn't a sipping drink. It's more for gulping. Finally, watch where you step when you're all done and on your way out. Unfortunately, in the midst of this journey, a heart-breaking amount of cider inevitably escapes the glass, ending up on the floor and likely the bartender too.
So where do you find the bubbly drink? Sidra is common throughout the region in restaurants, bars, and other hotspots. They make it easy for thirsty travelers -- pictures of a cider bottle or the word "Sidra" will often be prominently featured by the door. Or if you want to see how cider is made, a variety of producers take guests into the cider mills to see the process and taste the drink straight from the vat. You can arrange your own tour with individual mills or go through a governmental tourism agency, such as Gijon's Cider Trail.
But one of our favorite ways of appreciating this unique drink? Climbing into a wooden vat to enjoy a meal prepared with as well as paired with sidra, at one of four Tierra Astur restaurants found in the region. With cider bottle decor and puddles of the liquid found everywhere, it's a fun way to become truly immersed in sidra.