I may be counting down till my first Maui vacation, putting off the laundry and packing, but I can certainly make time to taste a line-up of cold, hard cider. It is a cider lover’s Wheel Of Fortune out there right now. Craft cideries are opening everywhere, from Nelson, New Zealand to Fort Collins, Colorado.
Style defines a combination of sweetness, sharpness, and carbonation. For example, Spanish ciders, called sidra, are still, meaning there is no carbonation. Isastegi Sidra Natural is from Basque, Spain and drinks more like a kombucha or sour ale. It is light, earthy, and funky, with herbal notes that trick you into thinking you’re having a health drink. It is unlike any cider you’ve ever tasted, especially the ubiquitous Angry Orchard or Woodchuck brands.
Americans have been drinking hard cider and fermenting apples since our country was first settled. It all starts with high quality apples. The apples are harvested, milled, and pressed. Then the juices from different apple varieties are mixed before fermentation begins to balance the sweetness and acidity. After fermentation is complete, the liquid is racked off the sediment, just like in wine making, and then aged and bottled.
Shades of Cider
Besides the style or flavor of cider, there is also a spectrum of colors. The range can be from nearly clear and colorless to bright yellow, rosé to cranberry hued. Red-fleshed apple varieties make pink cider, but additional ingredients can also change the shade of color. Examples include strawberries, pomegranates, or hibiscus.
Drinking & Mixing
Tulip shaped wine glasses are the optimal drinking vessel for cider. And the Holy Grail of plastic wine glasses is the brand govino. I recommend govino for all summer patio drinking, including sipping cider on hot August days. It is also fun to use cider in cocktails – try filling a highball glass with ice, add ½ oz of elderflower liqueur, top with dry cider and spank a sprig of rosemary for garnish.