Cider is a wild and wonderful world – full of diverse and delightful sips. So what’s the best way to get started?
Lumping every cider together does not give credit to the vast spectrum of different cider styles. The types of apples, where they are from, how they are fermented and the cider maker’s philosophy all have a profound impact on the final product. The results are wide ranging – ciders can be subtle or bold, straight forward or deeply nuanced.
Here are a few ways of grouping of ciders and some key terms that will help you navigate the delightful world of cider styles. This isn’t a comprehensive list. Think of it as a jumping off point for exploration. We encourage you to try ciders from several different styles to discover what speaks to you.
To Sparkle or Be Still
Bubbles (or the lack of them) are just one element but they play a big role in how the cider feels, smells and tastes.
Many heritage cider makers will take a traditional approach and ferment the cider a second time in the bottle à la Champagne. It’s a labor-intensive and expensive process that creates ciders that are fine with persistent bubbles. These ciders are the hardest to make but are often the most rewarding. Titled Shed’s Jonathan Methode Champenoise and Redbyrd’s Celeste Sur Lie are great examples to try.
This lovely French word describes the lightest of fizziness. These ciders have small, subtle bubbles that that tickle the tongue. Snowdrift’s Cliffbreaks Blend is a classic, if you’d like to try this style.
Not all cider sparkles. Ciders with no carbonation allow you to really hone in on the flavors. They are often an opportunity for cider makers to craft something special that’s outside the norm. Expect the unexpected. Slyboro Kingston Black and South Hill Pomme sur Lie are great ways to explore what still ciders can offer.
First created in Quebec in the early 1990s, this specialty is a real treat and can be thought of cider’s answer to dessert wine. Ice cider is made by concentrating the apple juice by freezing it before fermenting into cider. A few adventurous makers even let the apples freeze on the branches! The freezing process concentrates the sugars and acid. The result is usually sweet but balanced with a strikingly refreshing acidity that keeps it from being cloying. You might taste notes of stone fruits or caramel. They usually have a slightly higher alcoholic content than heritage cider, around 11 or 12% ABV but still much lower than a traditional liqueur. Beware: once you try one, you’ll probably be hooked.
Try a bottle of Slyboro Ice Harvest, made from Macintosh and Northern Spy in the foothills of the Adirondacks Mountains.
Pommeau is a fortified wine made by adding apple brandy to unfermented apple juice to prevent fermentation and often barrel-aged. Kind of like cider’s answer to Port. Orchard Hill in the Western Hudson Valley has been making their long barrel aged pommeau Ten66 for years, while Alpenfire’s Rosy Pommeau link is made from Aerlie Redflesh apples, then aged in neutral oak to maintain all the notes of red berries and fruit that comes with the variety. Pommeaus generally run within a range around 18% ABV and can be a great way to start or end a meal. It pairs beautifully with rich foods like cheese or pâté.
Now that you know the various cider styles, it’s time to go out and try them for yourself!