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Comptoir du Cidre: Normand for gourmands

Is there any better way to embrace the autumn with the bittersweet pang of a good cider? Apples, pears, or even a triple-fermented apple beer, the Comptoir du Cidre duo has it down to an art.

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Photo by Anna Agliardi

Perhaps you’ve already lined up for the 11-hour sous-vide cooked cider-marinated steak in Markthalle Neun, where 500 portions are sold every Street Food Thursday. “That’s what pays the bills right now,” says Canadian-born Sidney Kristiansen, one-half of the sibling duo behind Berlin’s first cider bar Comptoir du Cidre, opened on Kollwitzstraße in September. Whereas his sister Leila does the cooking (think Normandy-German tapas), Sidney works as a ‘cider scout’, splitting his time between a picturesque chaumière in Normandy, where he searches for the best artisanal producers, and Berlin.

In his mind, Comptoir is not just a cider bar but also the first trading post in a mission to introduce the Normand bubbly to the world – he already has plans for Scandinavia and Asia. But right now Sidney focuses on winning over locals, be it at the price of gimmicky stratagems – like packaging their cider into 33cl bottles with a regular metal cap instead of the traditional cork, more familiar to beer-drinking Germans.

Apart from the apple and pear cider varieties (nine in total), Comptoir serves a selection of Calvados; Pommeau, a very tasty Calvados and apple blend best as an aperitif; cocktails (like the Bel Ami: Calvados, manzanilla and Pommeau, €7); and three varieties of German Apfelwein (made from industrial apples like Jonagold and Cox Orange).

But the real thing here is cider. Far from the stuff you get in German supermarkets, the naturally fermented drink is made of apples and only apples, always a mix of sweet, sour and bitter, all from Normandy – each giving its own character to the cider the way a particular blend of grapes defines a wine. Their bestseller is the quite traditional dry Cidre Ponpon from Darnétal (€3.50/20cl glass, €8/75cl bottle), medium-bodied with bitter notes. “Germans prefer dry,” says Sidney, admitting that the kitschy label with Vikings, shields and apples could also have contributed to the success.

If you prefer something sweeter, their only demi-sec cider is a fruity amber-coloured Gaec Boissel Père et fils from La Garenne (same price as above). It has a richer smell of ripe apples and the taste is more musty – a good match with cheese from the region, or the warm buffalo mozzarella on their menu (€4). Less traditional is the Poiré (same price as above), a yeasty-smelling, dry pear version that doesn’t really taste of pear, and whose light bubbles are reminiscent of champagne (they use champagne yeast to make it).

Beer nerds and generally curious drinkers should try the “apple beer” from Domaine Dupont (€4/glass, €12/bottle), an unusual brew even in Normandy. Inspired by Belgian beers, it’s triple-fermented up to 11 percent alcohol (using beer yeast), and the taste could very well be confused with a strong, dry, pale ale, with its hops replaced with bitter apples.

Apart from the fact that no other drink embodies autumn as nicely as a good cider, just think that it contains more antioxidants than beer and, barring the Domaine Dupont, one-third the alcohol of wine (there’s unfiltered, alcohol-free juice for €2.50/20cl). In other words: whether you consume on the spot or stock up on bottles for home (€2 less than in-house) Comptoir should be your next stop for guilt-free drinking decadence!