Txotx! Straight from the Barrel

It’s cider season in Guipúzcoa region! The municipality of Astigarraga, where I currently live (5 km away from San Sebastian centre) is a real point of reference within the cider sector. In Spain it is mainly produced in the Northern areas and they are appreciated for their high quality.The town boasts a 17 sagardotegia (cider houses in Basque language) and a tradition which is closely linked to these. Walking through the town, you smell apples, apples and more apples being fermented throughout the season.

In Guipúzcoa natural cider is usually consumed straight from the kupela, or barrel. In the cider houses, kupelas are usually found around the dining room and the landlord of the cider house goes around opening the barrels over the course of the evening to the cry of “txotx!” and all those who wish to drink need only stand up and shake their glass to empty the remnants of the last drink and walk towards the barrel.

Cider season runs from January to April and during this season cider is consumed straight from the kupela or barrel, but outside this season you can still enjoy cider in the Basque Country, only in bottles.

Its origin

The txotx began as a tasting hosted by the cider houses for wholesalers, restaurants, and gastronomic societies who came to taste the different kupelas to choose cider for purchase. However, it has now become yet another mythical and popular gastronomic event among the many taking place in the Basque country during the year.

In Guipúzcoa, natural cider is usually consumed straight from the barrel. In a Guipuzcoan cider cellar (Sagardotegia in Euskera) cider kupelas (big woodem barrels) are traditionally arranged around the dining  room  and the cellar’s  owner goes opening the kupelas throughout the night with the  cry of “Txotx ! “. Then, anyone who wants to drink a glass of cider gets up and goes to open the kupelas. The first person to reach the kupelas or the owner,  alternatively, is responsible for opening the valve of the kupela and close it when everyone has finished filling their glasses. In a Guipuzcoan cider cellar people only pay for their glasses and can drink all the cider they want.

Here’s a perfect example from a nearby and popular cider house – Gartziategi, which is also the oldest one there is (about 100 years old)

Grab your glasses upon entry and off you go!

The cider house still holds the traditional barrels as decoration. Perhaps a bit somber but nice and cozy from the cold.

The best part of the cider houses also lies in the food. Ranging between 27 euros – 30 euros, you drink all the cider you like, from a variety of barrels, and have a complete traditional basque meal:

Tortilla de bacalao (codfish omelette). Not dry, but superbly creamy and crunchy with stringy codfish

Bacalao con pimientos (codfish with peppers)


Txuleta (steak weighing about 700g). Crunchy, juicy, lots of strong taste. Grilled right by your table.

Nueces y membrillo (fresh walnuts, quince paste and goat cheese)

It’s the best deal in town!

Cider season runs from January to April when the cider is consumed directly from the kupela or barrel. We can also enjoy the Basque cider outside of these months, but in this case, from bottles. If you are visiting the Basque Country this time of year, don’t forget to drop by a cider house for a great meal along with a great beverage!

Here’s a guide (in Spanish) of some of the top cider houses in town, including ratings of the cider and food as well! So you can be sure to find the best txuleta steak with your cider.




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