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The Ultimate Guide to Hard Ciders

Totally in season and perfect for the holidays, hard cider is a drink you should know more about -- and drink now!

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Photography by: Brenda Bailey Collins

In recent years, hard cider has had a resurgence -- it hasn't been this popular since more than 100 years ago. It's becoming a staple in bars and restaurants, and for savvy drinkers, at home. This makes sense because during Colonial times it was pretty much our national drink, particularly in New England, where the soil is prime for growing apple trees.

Hard cider remained immensely popular until a new wave of immigrants arrived. German and Eastern Europeans arriving en masse in the 1900s brought with them a love of beer, ushering in a new thirst for lager. Hard cider was no longer the drink of choice. Prohibition was the final nail in the coffin for the once-thriving cider industry. After Prohibition was repealed, cider didn't regain popularity, partly because it takes much longer to grow proper cider apples than it does to grow barley. Drinkers didn't have time to wait for cider and took to beer instead.

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Photography by: Anne Becerra

The current cider renaissance is led by a group of creative and talented producers. Their artisanal ciders showcase all the great aspects of this beloved beverage. Besides being highly refreshing and a great gluten-free option, cider’s standout feature is its compatibility with food. We use fruit in countless sauces -- glazes, soups, and sandwiches -- so think of drinking cider with your meal as an extension of that. The sweetness is great for playing up savory qualities in a dish and can also calm the heat from spicy foods. A good hard cider is a perfect accompaniment to roasted veggies, grilled meats, spicy Asian dishes, creamy sauces, and vinegary BBQ, just to name a few.   

A common misconception is that ciders are overly sugary or sticky sweet. In reality, there is a vast range of flavors available. Cider can rival the driest champagne or the most fully flavored wine. Next time you're wondering what to serve with dinner, mosey on over to the hard cider aisle.

 

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Photography by: Eric Iverson
Doc's Draft Hard Apple Cider

Sweet and fruity:
If you’re looking for something refreshing to satisfy a sweet tooth, this is the way to go. These bright, robust ciders are incredible partners for fall dishes, and the sweetness has an uncanny ability to tame spice.

Ones to try: Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider, Naked Flock Original Hard Cider, J.K.’s Scrumpy Organic Orchard Gate Gold

 

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Photography by: Brenda Bailey Collins
Farnum Hill Extra Dry Hard Cider

Elegant and bubbly:
Delicate and refined, these sparklers are great for lightening up a meal.  They’re fruit-forward without being overly sweet and are the perfect accompaniment to lighter meats like pork chops, grilled foods, and creamy cheeses.

Ones to try: Farnum Hill Extra Dry, Foggy Ridge Serious Cider, Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche

 

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Photography by: Anne Becerra

Tart and funky:

If sharper, earthier flavors are what you like, look no further. The high acidity levels of these tannic ciders are just the thing for cutting through rich dishes, like a hearty casserole, while highlighting a dish's herbal qualities and cleansing your palate after each bite.


Ones to try: Virtue Redstreak, Ace Joker, Wandering Aengus Wickson

 

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Photography by: McKenzie's
McKenzie's Seasonal Reserve Hard Cider

Fun and unusual:

As great as a good apple cider can be, sometimes it’s fun to experiment. Whether it’s the inclusion of spices or additional fruits, extensive aging in oak and spirit barrels, or amped up alcohol content for an added burst of body and flavor, there’s no shortage of options. Sipping these with a great cheese plate is divine -- and just as with the cheeses, there are ciders available to suit every taste and preference.

Ones to try: McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve, Aspall Imperial Vintage Suffolk Cyder, Aaron Burr Ginger Apple Cider

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About the Author

Anne Becerra

Anne Becerra has a very strong passion for craft beer and the community that surrounds it. She was the first woman in New York City to become a Certified Cicerone -- or beer sommelier -- and has worked at the helm of the biggest beer bars in Manhattan for the last six years, including Blind Tiger, The Ginger Man, and The Pony Bar.  She was named one of the "Heroes of the Craft Beer...

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