It is one of the best known and most consumed drinks in Euskal Herria. Its freshness and all the culture and tradition surrounding it have led to this seasonal apple-based drink being appreciated by locals and visitors alike.
Gipuzkoa is the region that has remained most faithful to the custom of growing apple trees and making cider.
At the start of the 20th century, a lot of cider was produced in the province, but after the 1936 war, production decreased and consumption was the lowest in history in 1967.
With the revival of Basque traditions, and especially from the 1980s onwards, cider bars came back into fashion in Gipuzkoa, but without returning to the production levels seen 100 years ago.
Origin of cider in Hernani
Apples and the cider sector have played an important role in the history of Hernani and have had a notable social, economic and cultural influence. Due to the town’s cider-making tradition and the large number of cider bars found there, Hernani is considered to be one of the temples of cider.
We know that cider has been made in Hernani since ancient times, although its precise origin is unknown. The first references to apple trees, apples and cider date back to the 11th century and the oldest known decrees that mention cider date back to 1542. In them, the use of cider to put out fires in Hernani dwellings is controlled. A 17th century document, meanwhile, states that the apple orchards on the Hernani riverbank were so numerous that there was no space to grow other raw materials.
Evolution of cider bars
Before the war, many cider bars were located in the streets of Hernani town centre. Some had their own cider press and others brought the cider from the farmhouses, transporting barrels on carts, placing them in the middle of the street, and from there taking the drink to the barrels inside the cider bar.
From Donostia and neighbouring towns, groups and families would travel to Hernani by tram to enjoy the atmosphere of the cider bars, many with their own casseroles. In the afternoon, after leaving work, it was also common to go to the cider bars with a snack or dinner.
However, although cider was initially the most widely consumed drink, with the fall in wine prices after the Civil War, the rise in cider taxes and the marketing of soft drinks, the town’s cider bars gradually closed their doors and only those in the farmhouses remained.
Some of these farmhouses continued to produce cider for their own consumption and for some gastronomic societies and restaurants in Donostia. Around 1950, the Donostia gastronomic societies started to order bottled cider from the cider bars in Hernani.
Before buying the cider, they would go to the farmhouses to try it, where they were also offered food. Gradually, the decision was made to charge for the food, although some groups took advantage of the opportunity to bring their own food and cook it there. This is how the current cider bar concept began to take shape.
Cider around the world
Although most cider-producing areas have moved their production to industrial and gasified processes, Hernani and Gipuzkoa are not the only places where natural cider is still made. It is also made in Asturias, Brittany, Normandy, Great Britain, the United States and Finland, among others. The process, production and taste of the cider are different in each of these places.
You can get to know these ciders through guided samplings and tastings organised in the municipality by Euskal Sagardoa, among others.
Moreover, if you enjoy trying new flavours, many cider bars in Hernani are starting to produce new products based on cider and other natural elements, such as hops and honey.