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Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 12:01 am

’Tis the season for cider

Hard apple beverages are all the rage right now. Here’s what to know about the crisp (or dry or sweet ) drinks you’ll be drinking this season

Every holiday has its iconic meals: Thanksgiving has turkey, Christmas has ham and Hanukkah has latkes. But just what are we to drink during these celebrations? Well, this year a nice hard cider just may be the perfect fit.

Long a favorite in Europe, cider’s popularity in the U.S. has soared in recent years, aided by a booming artisanal cider movement. Like wine, cider comes in a wide variety of styles and flavor profiles, and since it’s a “harvest beverage” cider seems all the more appropriate around the holidays.

“Now that we have all these choices with cider, and so many that are quite elegant ... it just seems like a perfect fit for me for the holidays,” says Sherrye Wyatt, executive director of the Northwest Cider Association. “I think that they go hand-in-hand.”

Though hard apple drinks are now seen as a major up-and-comer in the alcoholic beverage industry, their history in the U.S. actually is fairly significant. For many of the country’s early settlers, cider was the preferred alternative to an oft-contaminated water supply. Though its popularity waned following Prohibition, the drink has enjoyed resurgence in the past decade, steadily popping up in homes and bars across the country. Today’s American cider scene resembles the early days of the craft beer movement, with a plethora of small, specialized cider makers offering entries in an industry that is otherwise dominated by a few household brands.

“There’s ranges in quality of cider, just as there are in every other industry,” says Tim Larsen, co-owner of Snowdrift Cider Co. in Wenatchee, Washington. “So if [people] prefer artisanal wines or craft beers, then they’re going to enjoy a more artisanal cider. If they enjoy a domestic product, like PBR, or if they enjoy a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, then there are going to be a lot of mass-produced things out there for their palate.”

When it comes to your holiday feast, there is almost certainly a satisfying cider to compliment your meal. Tieton Cider Works, in Tieton, Washington, even puts together a “menu” of cider pairings around the holiday season. (For recipes, visit tietonciderworks.com/tieton/pairings.)

Sharon Campbell, co-owner and creative director for Tieton Cider Works, says that for a big turkey dinner, people should actually consider basing their pairings around the side dishes, since turkey is versatile enough to pair well with most ciders. A dry cider, she says, can go well with butternut squash or savory bread pudding, while sweeter ciders work nicely with potatoes.

As for Campbell’s personal Thanksgiving favorite?

“We do a (sweeter) cherry cider, and I take that every Thanksgiving,” Campbell says. “And I have to say, it was like the perfect Thanksgiving cider. It went with the sweet potatoes, and it went with the dressing, it went with the savory bread pudding. It went with everything!”

So if you are new to the world of cider, the holidays may be the perfect time to give it a try. After all: ’Tis the season.

“Apple season is late summer into the fall, so it makes sense that people think of cider as something that evokes a feeling of the holidays and the nostalgia that goes along with them,” says Greg Hall, former Goose Island brewmaster and founder of Virtue Cider. “Cider goes great with food and the holidays bring great feasts, so we’re happy to be a part of people’s tradition.”

Try a cider cocktail

Looking to wow your holiday guests with a killer cocktail that captures the spirit of the season? Cider may be your perfect answer.

“Cider drinks well on its own, it pairs great with food, and it lends itself well to cocktails,” says David Sipes, cider maker at Angry Orchard. “It just has this versatility around it.”

So for those of you who are looking to get adventurous with your cocktails this holiday season, here is a cider-based recipe courtesy of Virtue Cider and Cristiana DeLucca, mixologist at Bangers & Lace in Chicago.

Kessinger’s Kiss

Ingredients
• Egg white
• 3/4 ounce lemon juice
• 3/4 ounce grenadine
• 1 ounce Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
• 1/4 ounce Firelit Spirits Coffee Liqueur
• 2 ounces Virtue Mitten Cider
• Nutmeg

Preparation

Combine the egg white, lemon juice, grenadine, apple brandy and coffee liqueur in a Boston shaker glass or cocktail shaker with ice. Give it a nice, long shake. (Your arms may get tired!) Pour into a glass with ice. Top with the cider and grate on some fresh nutmeg.

(Courtesy of Cristiana DeLucca, mixologist at Bangers & Lace in Chicago)
CTW Features

Also from Ben Larrison, CTW Features

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