Long gone are the days where hard cider was only popular among the gluten-averse crowd and there were a mere few brands to choose between. These days, the fruit-based alcohol is having a renaissance—you’re just as likely to find an artisanal cider on draft at your local bar’s as you are to find a fancy craft beer. And, as with beer and wine, not all ciders are alike. From dry and crisp to sweet and fruity, there exists a cider for everyone. Really.
Beyond the various flavor profiles, each type of hard cider is created differently. As with wine, the region where the cider is produced matters—that includes climate, soil quality, and harvest time. Ciders from Australia or New Zealand taste quite disparate from complex French cidres or more bubbly English blends. Paying attention to the region your cider came from can tell you a lot about what to expect from the flavor, carbonation, and sweetness of your drink.
Beyond that, there are two more distinct varieties in the cider family: scrumpy and perry. Scrumpy ciders are considered to be the true, traditional English option, and are often higher in alcohol content and lower in added water, sugar, and preservatives than other cider varieties. Meaning, you can get a pretty solid buzz from one of these. Perry, meanwhile, foregoes the typical apple-base for another fruit: pears! Pear cider, is typically less alcoholic and sweeter than their apple counterparts. A little more like juice that’ll give you a baby buzz (but still delicious).
And then, of course, there’s the regular, non-alcoholic apple cider you’ve grown up with, heated up on a crisp fall day or icy cold in place of lemonade in the summer heat. This kind of apple cider is more versatile than you might think, especially in the kitchen. Here’s how to best incorporate all kinds of the apple-y good stuff in your cooking (and bartending) repertoire:
A Plated classic—based on the seasonal fall pairing of pork and apples—incorporates apple cider is in two ways. First, in the gravy, which lends a sweet, tart flavor to the pork, and then again in the salad dressing, mixed with tangy Dijon mustard. It’s the perfect hearty meal for any autumnal evening.
This isn’t your average meat and potatoes dinner. Apple cider takes this dish to the next level, creating a base for a shallot and cider-based sauce that coats the chicken and Brussels sprouts with incredible, dynamic flavor. You’ll want to make this one at your next dinner party—they’ll be reaching for seconds…and thirds.
The best part about fall (apart from #sweaterweather and pumpkin everything) is snacking on fresh apple cider donuts at your local bakery, farmer’s market, or grocery store. With this recipe, you don’t have to wait any longer to enjoy all the donuts, any time you want.
Dark + Stormy
Adding apple cider to your classic dark and stormy is a sweet way to take this bright, summery drink far into fall.
2 ounces apple cider
2 ounces dark rum
4 ounces ginger beer
1 lime, cut in half
Combine apple cider, rum, ginger beer, and juice of half of the lime in a cocktail shaker or tall glass and stir until combined. Cut the other half of the lime into wedges, and serve in a tall glass over ice with a lime wedge or two.
Hot toddys are the perfect antidote to a chilly fall evening. People tend to have their own preferred recipe for these—some use green tea while others use black; some add honey while others like it unsweetened. Our preference? Adding a splash of hard cider. Because the only thing better than a fall cocktail is two fall cocktails.
1 black or green tea bag (and water)
1 ½ ounces bourbon
1 ounce hard cider
Small lemon, halved
Soak your tea bag in 1 cup hot water for 3–5 minutes. After steeping, discard tea bag. Pour bourbon and cider into the tea mug, adding more of either (to boozy taste). Squeeze in juice of half the lemon and garnish with extra lemon slices and a cinnamon stick.
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