In Basque Country, January to April is cider season, and Spain’s version of the fermented drink is an absolute must-try. Can't get out of the States? Luckily, Spain isn't the only place in the world where you can get the authentic Spanish-style drink. We've rounded up some of the best spots in Spain and the United States to get your fix.
Where to drink it in Spain
The best way to taste Spanish cider is at the source, during the txotx season from January through April. In fact, many cider houses are only open then. Sagardoaren Lurraldea is a great online resource for cider house locations and hours. If you have time, a car, and a sense of adventure, you could spend weeks driving the back roads of Northern Spain discovering local sidrerías. But for a focused attack, head to Astigarraga, south of San Sebastián in Basque country. This is the heart of cider country, and you’ll find many options within stumbling distance from one another. Zelaia is nearby. A five-minute drive up route A-15 takes you to neighbors Gartziategi and Lizeaga. Gartziategi is one of the oldest in the region, with its own orchard and a gorgeous stone barn stocked with century-old barrels. Its cider is tart, smooth, and full, almost chewy, like sourdough bread. You’ll find funkier, mustier, earthier ciders at Lizeaga, which is equally old-school, housed in a 16th-century stone farmhouse.
Where to drink it in the States
Gregory Hall, an American cider maker taken with Spain’s distinctive styles, has one of the few cider presses in the United States making a Spanish-style sidra. When planning his cider-making program at Virtue, his Michigan-based press, he spent two weeks visiting Spain’s apple farms and sidrerías. The result is Sidra de Nava, a bright, lemony brew that’s not that out of place in Michigan, Hall says. “Dry and tart, it’s a style that lends itself to hot, humid Midwest summers.” Try it yourself at Virtue’s orchard and tasting room in Fennville, Michigan.
Don’t forget to eat
Northern Spain is known for a distinctive style of tapas, or small appetizers, called pintxos. From the verb pinchar, “to spear,” these morsels of sour pickles and salty anchovies, sweet dates and oily nibbles of chorizo, plus the region’s famous Cabrales blue cheese, come assembled on toothpicks, piled in bristling mounds on bar tops and passed among revelers. At sidrerías, the convivial family-style atmosphere pervades, but the food is heartier, heavier fare, speared not on delicate picks but on steak knives.
Tortilla de bacalao: The classic rustic ciderhouse dish, this take on the Spanish tortilla, or omelet, is studded with bits of salted codfish—a Basque staple—and served warm, fluffy, and oozing with juice.
Chorizo in cider: A smoky, spicy sausage that’s simmered in cider until tender, it can come alone as a pintxo or in a stew called fabada with beans, tomatoes, and blood sausage (morcilla). Served in heavy earthen casserole dishes, fabada is a warm way to end a long day (and night) of cider sampling.
Txuleton: The Basque cider-drinking custom of gutxi eta maiz (“little bits, often”) ends at the steak course—tapas this is not. Txuleton, barbecued steaks, are Flintstone-scale wonders made from local Galician cattle, which is as revered here as black-hoofed Iberico pigs are in the south. Locals like it extra rare.
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