Tag Archives: Drinking Rules

Cider - A Beginners Guide

Cider – A Beginners Guide

Rikki Hammond, in the excellent blog The Cider Drinker, has written for us a great beginners guide to cider.  This is a good introduction to the exciting world of cider drinking. Rikki writes regularly on all cider related news, and reviews, on video, all the best ciders, and some of the not so good, so I STRONGLY recommend you check out his website

The Cider Drinker Homepage> http://theciderdrinker.moonfruit.com

Rikki’s video reviews> https://www.youtube.com/user/Dormin87


Cider – A Beginners Guide

Apples and cider

All the lovely apples

Picture the scenario. You’ve popped to your local shop/off-license/pub to peruse what variety of alcohol they have on offer. You’ve been a beer drinker for most of your life, and decide that tonight’s the night you pop your cider cherry. You view the drinks on offer, and decide to go for the most eye-catching and cheapest one they have on offer.

After your purchase, you head back home/to your table, crack open the can or bottle and take your first sip of fermented apple juice……….and are promptly overwhelmed by a hideous taste that makes you almost gag, forcing you to tip the rest of the contents down the sink or palm it off to a mate.

That was my first experience with cider! Now, ten years down the line, my taste buds have developed, and to all you people who have had this same experience with cider, I say to you, give cider another chance!

Of course, everyone’s tastes are different, but most people have only tried the cheap, mass-produced ciders available, and probably think this is what all ciders taste like. This is most definitely not the case. So, where do you start looking for better tasting drinks? The answer, is right in the very shop or pub you bought your first cider from.

Different types of cider

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of different apple varieties out there, and with this comes the ability to make a lot of different tasting drinks. But first off, we need to know the different types of ciders out there, these are as follows:



 ‘White’ Ciders – The absolute bottom of the barrel, coming in at 6-10% ABV, no colour and usually smells and tastes of chemicals, perfect if you don’t care about taste and want to get wasted quickly, as they are usually dirt cheap

Mass-Marketed Ciders – The next step up, not naming any names, but you know the ones I mean. Usually 4-5% ABV, quite a pissy colour, and rather bland tastes in the mouth. Still cheap, although some companies try to rip you off big time, and probably the biggest type of cider people have tried.

Vintage Ciders – If you see the ‘V’ word on a bottle, it quite often means that the cider has been left to age (most likely in oak barrels,) and gives it a much deeper colour and stronger taste. Vintages usually come in between 7-8% ABV

Farmhouse/Scrumpy – Now we’re getting in to the big boys. A whole variety of tastes and colours are present in these ciders, and are almost always cloudy in appearance, due to the cider being unfiltered. This also means, you will probably get natural sediment in your bottle too. Again, these can range anywhere from 6-8% ABV normally.

‘Real’ Cider – The top end of the cider chain. Unfiltered, no artificial stuff added in, and no sugars. Just 100% pure apple juice left to ferment of it’s own natural causes, and almost always still not sparkling. The range of tastes and colours here are phenomenal, and the ABV can be anywhere from 3 to 8%.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg (or ciderberg if you will,) as we can also get in to apple wines, apple brandies, pommeau, ice ciders and more, but we’ll stick with the basics for now.

With VS From

One thing I have noticed from drinking a lot of cider, is the wording on the bottle can plays a big part in whether the drink is going to be good or not, and it all comes down to two words, with and from.

the process in making cider

The process involved

If you spot ‘with’ plastered all over the bottle or can, this could mean that the drink has been made with apples, but also a lot of other crap thrown in too. All the company has to do is add one apple to the drink, then the rest can be concentrated apple juice, imported from another country, and they can still label it as cider, because it’s made ‘WITH’ that one apple.

If you see ‘from’ however, it’s usually accompanied with ‘100% apples’ or something similar. This, more often than not, means you’re getting the real deal, with no nasty additives thrown in, and makes for a much better tasting experience.

Other buzz-words to watch out for are ‘premium’, ‘refreshing’, ‘clean’ and ‘crisp’, as these usually indicate that the drink is going to be NONE of them, those words are merely there to whet your taste-buds, and to make you buy the drink, and then you will most likely be wholly disappointed with the end product.

The Next Step

Ok, so you’ve tried your hand at a few different ciders off the shop shelves, and have decided to have a pop at ‘real’ ciders. But where do you even begin? That’s where ale and cider festivals come in to play. More often than not, they will have a vast array of drinks on offer at very reasonable prices too. Find out where your nearest festival is held, and book a day to go and visit it with a couple of your mates, and let the adventure begin.

The festivals I’ve been to come in two flavours. Sometimes you will be given a beer card, which equates to £10, and you’re free to fill the card up with whatever drinks you want (you can even go back for a second one if you want,) or you simply walk in to the festival, and pay for the drinks as you normally would in a bar. Either way, you’re gonna get through a lot of drinks while you’re there. But which ciders to try?

cider drinking

Cider drinking

The best bet is to ask the guys behind the bar on their recommendations, and have an idea as to whether you’d prefer a sweet or dry tasting cider. The bar staff almost always allow you to have a little taster of a drink if you’re interested in it, and if you like it, they’ll fill up your glass from there. As you try out the ciders, you’ll find out for yourself which ones you do and don’t like, and can use this knowledge for when you take a trip to your next festival, because believe me, once you’ve been once, you’ll want to go again and again.

If you can’t afford to go to your local festival, have a look online to find out if any pubs are offering ‘real’ ciders, and try them there. You might end up paying a little more for them, but the end result will still be the same.

So as you can see, there’s more to cider than meets the eye. Once you’ve tasted a real cider for the first time, you’ll begin to wonder what you ever saw in those mass-marketed ciders in the first place, but the only way you’ll find out, is to go out there and expand your taste-buds!

Don’t forget to check out Rikki’s blog for all your cider related inquiries



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Irish themed bars

Why Irish themed bars are always shite

Why Irish themed bars are always shite and should be avoided like the plague

paddys pub Irish bars

Shite pub warning

God I hate Irish themed bars, they are generally soul-less places, tat everywhere, and ran by people who have no idea about class or Irish culture. There are no Irish themed bars in Ireland so why are they so fucking popular!!!  It’s the mcdonaldisation or starbucking of the bar world.

What is this Orishness that one can see in these bars – bicycles hanging from the rafters, turf in the fire, Guinness memorabilia, ancient books on shelves, shamrocks and Sheleighs on the wall, and old pictures of Ireland back in the day are everywhere? All this is a plague.

A good marker for me is if it’s called an Irish pub then it’s not an Irish pub. Or if it has a real tacky name (see above photo), or pseudo – Irish name then it’s a big no no. Have you ever seen those god damn awful Irish themed bars in London, “O’ Neills”, Christ on a bike they are woeful places to be.  Just because you stick up a poster of “Irish doorways” or “Pubs of Ireland” doesn’t mean I have the urge to drink in your establishment. Fuck off!

First off, why the Irish? Well Ireland has a big reputation for drinking and alcohol – Guinness, whiskey, good sessions, the craic and all that, and deservedly so. We have the St. Patricks day thing as well and, of course, the Irish music, which helps.

A real Irish pub when it’s on form is one of the best places to be when the music is playing, the drink is flowing, and the conversations are enlivening. Basically they are just like any other pub, with normal pub names, selling normal beer, and where normal people drink in. So what makes them Irish then? Mostly its the clientele. Pretty much any night could be a good session, musicians can crop out of anywhere, no set list, nothing is planned, go with the flow, no one has to prove how Irish one is, you just are, that’s it. Atmosphere is informal, friendly, and the people running them are genuine

Now a lot of Irish people do run Irish themed bars abroad, and have Irish staff, and they sometimes do cater for the ex pat community, and a lot of the original ones that first appeared were decent places to drink in. And to be fair the Irish do play the Paddywhackery card as well, when it suits (Jesus just look at any Irish person ever to work for BBC). The Orishness is played to a tee sometimes, but at least kept in check most of the time or to a bare minimum.

But then it seemed to get out of hand, and every new bar in a town was an Oirish bar – people were just taking the Mick (literally!), they know it’s a joke, or at least they should admit so. These bars cater for the tourist, the person who isn’t a heavy or serious drinker, the hipster, and the wanker, basically. Too afraid to head down town to the more edgy part of town, or drink with real people and drink where there might be some real atmosphere, they would much rather drink in an Oirish bar. Well it’s a safe choice as you know what to expect and you won’t get shouted at or molested!

Don’t forget the food as well, ha ha, fish and chips, loads of fucking potatoes and an Irish breakfast. Ha don’t make me puke. When I was a nipper the only food you could get in a bar was a bag of crisps and maybe some hang sandwiches!

an Irish breakfast

an Irish breakfast

I prefer the good old Irish bars of yonder year; dark brooding places, a bit dodgy, an atmosphere of aggression in the air, with horse racing non stop on the TV, old men in the corner ranting away to nobody in particular, no music blaring out except for the Dubliners on an endless loop, and when it hits a certain hour the madness begins, but always when would that madness begin? And the toilets? Ha, well better not go there!

pub toilet

pub toilet

So what can we do about it all then? Well don’t frequent these places. If it screams Orishness then don’t go in! Please! Enough decent bars all over the world are dying due to this infestation of Paddywhackery.

And will someone please tell the yanks to stop calling it St Pattys day!!!!!!

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The perfect bar man?

The perfect bar man (or woman)?

The perfect bar man (or woman)?

The perfect bar man?

Not the perfect bar man!

As a patron of many bars, the bar man (or woman) is quite an important person in the pursuit of getting drunk. So what do we look for in the attributes of a good bar person?

They should be fast enough in getting you your drink, I mean you don’t want to be waiting a long time for a drink, especially a first drink.

Personality doesn’t really matter, as long as the person isn’t a complete cunt. Doesn’t even have to say a whole lot. Actually the best bar staff are the ones who say very little and hover around the bar. You are the one who is drinking, so you are the one who is doing the talking, and you can never hear what they are saying in any case. As long as the bar man is friendly, has some basic chit chat about football, the weather, how all politicians are wankers, and the weather, that’s really all you need to hear from him.

How they look isn’t really important. Sometimes the  towel over the shoulder look is cool, but no one really cares as long as the drink is pouring on time and regular.

Good bar staff are the ones who don’t shuttle you out the door once closing time is up. They should give you time to finish your drink. I hate when some get snotty about it. Fuck off, no one is forcing you to work as bar staff, so shut the hell up. The best bar staff are the ones who lock the door and let you continue long into the night. They are far and few between but I have met them!

Having a good memory is good. Nothing better than walking into a bar and giving him the special code, already pouring your regular drink, “the usual”, while you take your seat. That’s a skill from a top barman, and a special, almost loving, relationship that takes a while to develop.


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