The Best Hard Ciders To Drink This Winter
Stock up on these picks curated by Brooklyn Cider House’s Peter Yi.
While a full bodied red wine may be your go-to during the colder months, hard cider also gets the job done while still keeping you warm.
To help curate the best ciders to try as the temperature drops, I called on Peter Yi, co-owner of Brooklyn Cider House and founder of PJ Wine. “The ciders I chose have an impeccable reputation,” he said. “A lot of them are either hand grown or use wild apples that they forage, but all of them are just made with the utmost love and respect.”
The secret to a qualty winter cider lies in the robust flavor of the apples. While sweet apples produce sweeter ciders and are good to eat on their own, Yi said that winter ciders should be made from fuller flavored apples. These apples are full of tannins, which are naturally occurring compounds found in apples that result in the “dry” feeling on your tongue, and have a more bitter taste that isn’t ideal for snacking.
“After the apples go through fermentation, you're left with the residual of that flavor mixed with other apples that give aromatics and stuff like that, but that underlying grip power tannic feel is what I am craving in the wintertime,” he said. Check out his selections below.
The owners of Redbyrd Orchard Cider pride themselves in intervening as little as possible in the fermentation process, and their orchards are even Certified Biodynamic. One of the apples used to make Still Barrel is Kingston Black and is one of Yi’s favorite cider apples.
“It’s barrel-aged and unfiltered, so it's going to pick up lots of flavors from the barrels and it's definitely a nice wintery cider,” Yi said. “It’s something that you could sip on for hours.”
This cider has aromas of beeswax, jasmine and lavender, is best served at room temperature with pairings like duck, cured meats and roasted vegetables.
Located in upstate New York, Eve’s Cidery produces naturally fermented cider from apples grown between the Southern Finger Lakes and the Northern Appalachian Plateau. Made with cider apples including Elils Bitter, Stoke Red, and Golden Russet, Albee Hill is a still, dry cider that pairs well with spiced foods. Yi’s inclusion of this cider was based on the fact that it has a good amount of tannins and is a “really well-made cider.”
“Another exceptional cider. This one has a laser-like focus, a really bold and really balanced cider,” Yi said of South Hill’s Pomme Sur Lie, made with apples grown around Ithaca, New York. This smooth cider is barrel fermented and aged for 9 months sur lie, meaning the dead yeast is left in the cider and it is bottled directly from the lees unfiltered. Leaning on the nuttier flavor profile side, Pomme Sur Lie pairs well with hearty dishes like roast chicken, pork roast or smoked gouda.
Carbonated cider fans, this is your time to shine, or sparkle. Blackduck Cidery’s Crabby Pip is another tannic cider, but is also naturally sparkling. It’s a 100% crabapple blend of Dolgo crabapples and 16 other crab apples grown in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
Yi said this cider is made using an ancestral method by capturing the natural carbonation during fermentation instead of releasing it.
“It's a very traditional method of making a carbonated cider or wine and it’s really tasty,” Yi said.
Eden Specialty Ciders grows over 35 varieties of biodynamic apples on its North Vermont orchard. The Brut Nature is a sparkling cider that’s completely dry, bubbly and made from several bittersweet apples including Kingston Black, Roxbury Russet, and Calville Blanc.
“It’s really well made and made by a wonderful cider maker that's been around for a long, long time,” Yi said of Eleanor Leger, one of Eden’s founders and co-owners.
Eden’s Brut Nature cider production method is similar to champagne in that it goes through a secondary fermentation to achieve the “sparkling” component. Upon sipping this versatile dinner cider, you’ll taste notes like dried apples, citrus and biscuit.
Yi’s final cider recommendation comes from a collaboration with his son. “He's working in Napa Valley in the wine industry, and he was here for vacation and we decided to make a cider together,” he said.
Three of Life is Brooklyn Cider House’s first batch of pet-nat cider and is made with bittersweet and heirloom apples. “It's definitely got structure and has just the right amount of bubbles, so it's not too carbonated,” he said. “The bubbles are very fine and it's unfiltered.”
It pairs best with a savory appetizer like coconut shrimp, beef empanadas, and roasted edamame.