Before I left on my trip, I had a conversation with some people about bringing an empty suitcase while traveling. This couple did it for all of the wine they bought in places like Spain, France, Italy, Argentina and South Africa. I like wine but not that much to drag it around in a suitcase for a month while paying the surcharges.
I thought about the empty suitcase when I was in the specialty food store Pantori in San Sebastian. I could have easily bought everything in the store from sauces, spreads, olive oils, canned fish, wine, craft beer, chocolate and cider.
Spanish Cider or Sidra was something I rediscovered in Bilbao and San Sebastian. I had it in a previous trip through Madrid, but neglected to introduce it back into my booze diet.
Sidra has a distinct flavor — a stinging, airy, vinegary first taste gives way to a slightly-sweet & sour and refreshing feeling on the palate. While American ciders are sweet beyond belief and British ciders can get downright nasty, Sidra and a few French-made ciders have interesting, wine-like complex flavors. They are not made for chugging.
Order a sidra in Northern Spain or Madrid and you get a little show called “throwing.” The bottle is topped with an escanciador or pourer to help with aerating the sidra. Then, your bartender with hold it over their head to pour it into a large, wide glass. This will gives your drink some more bubbles like sparkling wine and allow the sidra to breathe a bit.
I had one bartender put the glass between his legs so it looked like he was peeing into the glass. Others who are less-skilled will pour over a sink. While the glass is large, you’ll only get between two or three fingers deep.
While it was tempting to get a bottle for home, I figured I can get it here. Sure enough, my local shop had two Spanish sidra brands on hand.
This is why you should put some thought on your purchases abroad. Yes, it does make something a little special when it has traveled 5,000 miles to home. You have to way the hassle vs. just waiting when you come home and finding it online or locally.