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In our Sept/Oct 2010 issue, we delve into the juicy trend of using apple cider in cocktails, but artisanal ciders—both hard and alcohol-free—have long been sipped solo. Produced in apple-rich regions around the globe, craft ciders range from apple-pie sweet to mouth-puckeringly dry with those from Spain’s Basque Country tending toward tart and less effervescent; French versions showing a sweeter, lower-alcohol side; English iterations offering crisp flavors similar to a light lager and the U.S. crop falling somewhere between French and English versions. Here are a few hard ciders that offer a global perspective on this universally delicious drink.
Aspall Organic Cyder
Debenham, United Kingdom, 7% ABV
After eight generations, the Chevallier family is still crafting hard English cider from the same estate that was founded in 1728. Their organic cider uses more bittersweet apples in the mix offering earthy, slightly spicy notes that are especially highlighted in the Saffron-Limoncello Shandy.
Eric Bordelet Cidre Doux 2008
Charchigne, France, 3% ABV
Heralded as one of the top (if not the top) producers of French cider, Eric Bordelet crafts this vintage, off-dry cider from biodynamically farmed heirloom apple trees, some of which are more than two centuries old. The result is pure, baked-apple flavors with food-friendly acidity and a kiss of honey on the finish. Try it in the Waltzing with Vincent Price cocktail.
Isastegi Sagardo Naturala
Tolosa, Spain, 6% ABV
We’ve long been fans of this lip-smackingly dry cider from Spain’s Basque region, and its tangy apple-lime flavors, sour beer-like acidity and refreshingly fizzy finish prove irresistible yet again. Try it with traditional Spanish tapas or just about anything fried and salty.
Sea Cider Rumrunner
Victoria, British Columbia, 12% ABV
New to the craft cider market but already a cider-festival favorite is Canadian cidery, Sea Cider. Their Rumrunner cider is slowly ferment with Champagne yeasts, mixed with a splash of rum and then aged in bourbon barrels resulting in off-dry notes of brown sugar and spice that beg for a slice of pumpkin pie. This one might be hard to get your hands on at the moment, but the company is working on expanding distribution in the U.S., so definitely keep an eye out for it.
Wandering Aengus Wanderlust
Salem, Oregon, 6.9% ABV
Soul-soothingly delicious with warming notes of earthy apple skins, cinnamon and fresh ginger spice, this cider crafted from hand-selected, organically grown apples is perfect for a blustery fall day.
Woodchuck Dark & Dry
Middlebury, Vermont, 5% ABV
The most reliable of the larger American cider houses, Woodchuck has been producing ciders since 1991. Their Dark & Dry offers intriguingly funky flavors of fresh apple skin, wet hay and brown sugar.