When you think of San Sebastián the first thing that springs to mind are probably pintxos, but did you know the Basque Country also has a long history of cider production?
Cider season in the Basque Country typically runs from January to the end of April. During this time, the cider houses, or sagardotegias, in the hills surrounding San Sebastián, open their doors to thirsty drinkers, for what is known as ‘txotx,’ pronounced "chotch": for a fixed price, usually around €30, you can enjoy unlimited cider from huge barrels called ‘kupelak’ (when the cry of “txotx” goes out, they’ll pop the plug or tap and fill your glass from height from the cider stream – this oxidises the cider) and a series of rustic dishes, including cider-cooked chorizo, salt cod and chargrilled T-bone steak.
The cider houses are relaxed and social, and strangers are encouraged to mix and chat over the flat and cloudy cider, which clocks in between around five and six percent. It’s natural cider, and thus distinctly acidic and sour – and delicious.
Here are five of the best cider houses to try in San Sebastián:
There's no chance of you going hungry at this cider house. It's also one of the few to open for lunch on weekdays – you may still be there come dinnertime however.
Roughly 5km outside San Sebastián, is Peritegi, helmed by Ainara Otaño, who, working alongside three generations of the Otaño family, is one of the few prominent women in the male dominated world of Basque cider-making.
Visitors to this cider house in Martindegi, founded in 1906, stay standing up (for a while, anyway) when drinking and eating at its long communal tables, surrounded by huge barrels, with the scent of cider in the air. All the better to make the quick hop back to the kupelak.