The Txotx Is the Most Fun You Can Have Pouring a Drink
Unlike cocktails, which can be made with a bit of flair (or with a lot of flair), if you order pint at a bar anywhere in the United States, one of two things happens: Either the bartender drearily pulls a tap handle or pops a bottle open, filling your glass before sliding it across the bar. Plenty of good drinks have been and will be served like this, but no one gets excited to see it. That’s where the txotx comes in.
The txotx (pronounced Choch), for those unacquainted with cider customs, is the preferred method of serving cider in the siderias of Spain’s Basque region. It’s a massive barrel that, once opened, shoots cider for thirsty people to try catch in their glass, usually from about five feet away. It almost has the feeling of a drinking carnival game. And as my colleague Mike Pomranz wrote after experiencing his first txotx, once the cider starts coming out, there’s no stopping it. “Patrons interested in a tipple simply hold out their glasses and collect a few fingers worth. And hopefully another thirsty drinker has lined his glass up right behind yours – otherwise when you move, the free flowing cider will hit the floor, running past your feet and down the drain.” They’re incredibly rare in the United States and only one bar has gone full Basque cider house and installed one inside—Black Twig Cider House in Durham, North Carolina (2812 Erwin Rd #104). Mattie Beason, owner of Black Twig, was a sommelier by trade, but once he got to Spain he became enamored with cider, and particularly with the whole txotx operation. “I fell in love with the style. It’s entertainment, it keeps things fresh and interesting.” And, as he was putting together Black Twig, he decided he had to have one built in. So he pulled out part of a concrete wall, opened up the floor for a drain and in went the barrel.
Now, Beason’s isn’t a traditional txotx. The ones that go back centuries in Spain are just giant chestnut barrels used to ferment the cider. But as Beason said to me, “the more people got to understand how the cider reacts to the wood, the more they started using stainless steel to ferment.” So for his txotx, Beason cut one third of a barrel off and built it into the wall, running insulated lines behind it. But the effect is the same and Beason keeps the cider streaming out of it every day. When I asked him how you get someone to open the barrel tap, he said, “just yell txotx.” If only it was that easy everywhere to get cider flowing on command. It’s become popular enough that other bars have contacted Beason to pick his brain on setting up their own and he’s even rigged up a mobile txotx he can take with him on the road. Black Twig will host Txotxfest on November 18, when, Beason says, he’s going to show off some of the best cider makers in the Southeast. But if you won’t be there in November, the txotx is up and running every day. All you have to do is show up and shout.