In Northern Spain, sidra is a huge part of the drinking culture, and in the winter and spring, sagardotegi, or cider houses, abound. “The tradition of Basque cider…all that comes down from southern France, where apple production for the fermented drink originated. It became part of the eating and drinking culture very naturally,” Ryan explains.
Unlike many of the hard ciders produced in the United States, Basque cider tends to be dry, high in acidity and salinity, with very little carbonation. To accentuate the little bit of natural effervescence that their cider does have, Basques serve it using a high pour, raising the bottle several feet above the glass to accentuate its crispness, like bartender Sophie Fleming did before serving a bottle of Isategi at the party. Learn more about the lure of the high pour.
Bite-sized pintxos, the Basque Country’s answer to appetizers, are a must-have to start off any drinking hour. “Pintxos are the catch-all term for the skewered, Basque-style tapas,” Ryan says.
Start with one of the Basque region’s most classic bites, the pintxo Gilda. Named after the movie Gilda and made of Manzanilla olives, guindilla peppers and salt-cured anchovies, the skewered pintxo Gilda is the oldest recorded pintxo in Basque cuisine. Follow it with kale and mushroom croquetas and garlic-rubbed pan con tomate topped with Spanish ham.
Mussels abound in Northern Spain; chef Ryan’s version relies heavily on a blend of aromatic vegetables, mussels, white beans and plenty of chorizo for a smoky flavor. Learn more about how he makes this dish. You can add in something green, too, like a refreshing endive and radish salad with almond vinaigrette.
Forget the stereotype of Spaniards drinking sangria—the national drink of Spain is actually the gin and tonic. There’s an art to the perfect gintonic, as they call it; learn more about the anatomy of this cocktail here.
Olive Oil Cake
Olive oil cake is a nice ending to any Spanish-inspired meal, thanks to the bright flavor of lemon, which contrasts rich the olive oil flavoring this dessert.
Check out more of our day with the Aatxe crew.
Hungry for more? See behind-the-scenes photos, learn the story behind Aatxe restaurant, get Spanish tapas pointers and more at williams-sonoma.com/aatxe.