Saturday, April 28, 2012

Two fingers of red eye barkeep!


Getting out of the house is a ritual of returning for specs, car keys, passport and what not - short term memory in tatters. My long term memory is still good though - well good enough to repeat the same story over and over again.

That evening, as we finally parked up in Sanlucar de Barrameda in Cadiz province. The evening was warm, shirt sleeve weather as the Spaniards say, a December evening - Boxing day to be precise. The car was a hired and beaten up mark 3 Ford Escort. The town was buzzing with that early evening children playing, mothers chatting, old men leaning on sticks crowd that gathers in almost every open space in every Spanish town at the appropriate hour.

We were soon installed in some 600 peseta hostal separated from the, fortunately unoccupied, next bed, by just a curtain. We went out for a drink. We carelessly asked for beer and wine. The beer was fine - amber coloured, fizzy, normal but the wine was straw coloured in a tall glass. We were too timid to try and send it back but when Maggie tasted it and found it was ice cold, dry sherry she was fine. It wasn't sherry actually it was Manzanilla, the local drink. We very quickly learned that it was what everyone drank along with big juicy prawns. It was a memorable evening.

Just before Easter this year we were in Arriondas in Asturias. We went out for a drink. We carelessly asked for beer and wine - make that a Ribera said Maggie. She's learned. We surveyed the early evening crowd; the Nationalists talking some odd local language but more particularly the two men taking advantage of the WiFi connection and staring at the screen of a laptop. Our attention fixed on the bottle between them. A bottle the shape size and colour of a red wine bottle but with a strange contraption clamped to the top of it. Every now and then one of the men would squeeze a trigger on the device, the machine whirred and the frothed up cider spat and fizzed into the glass. Just enough for a couple of mouthfuls. Asturian scrumpy has no fizz, the machine was to add air. We asked for a cider in the next bar and we were sold a 70cl bottle of the stuff. No machine for us though, the bar staff popped back every now and again to pour the cider from the bottle held above their head to the glass held down by their hip. They only poured a little at a time but so they were kept busy as half the bar were on the cider.

It's normally the old men leaning on the bar that give you the clue. They drink the traditional, cheap, local stuff. It's often just the local wine like us drinking the wine from Jumilla in Cartagena and Alicantino wines in Culebrón. Maybe it'll be a variant, like Sangria - wine plus local fire-water, or Vermouth, aromatic fortified wine, once a standard drink in Alicante. Sometimes it's not even alcoholic - the Horchata of Valencia for instance, but it's much more fun with orujos, pacharanes, aguardientes, cavas, mistelas, moscateles, olorosos, finos and anises. It's a part of the culture that I've been keen to study.

It's odd how poor my memory is. I wonder what caused it?

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