With summer around the corner, the time is right for barbecues, picnics and all manners of dining al fresco. While you may be debating between wine and beer for your sunshine sipping options, consider a third one: hard cider. It’s usually lighter on the palate in comparison to wine and a sweeter, less alcoholic alternative to beer. Plus, they’re nearly all gluten-free making them a viable option for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
And it’s more than just apples. While traditional ciders have been made strictly with apples and sometimes pears, there’s a new crop of ciders that expand the flavor profile beyond those two fruits by adding other fruits, herbs, even flowers such as hibiscus. Here are some ciders to try and the foods that pair well with them.
If you’re a cider novice, consider starting with Shacksbury Dry. Veering on the sweeter side, it’s well balanced with a clean finish. Also, it goes great with barbecued pork spareribs. The sweetness complements the sauce and balances out some of the smoke. If you’re really industrious, add some cider to your sauce and baste your ribs with it as they cook.
Similar to their namesake, rosé ciders are crisp, refreshing and, as you may have guessed, pink. To achieve its signature shade, rosé cider can be made in a variety of ways: with red-fleshed apples, using apple skins or by combining cider with other fruit (blueberries, cranberries, etc.) Consider pairing Wolffer No. 139 Dry Rosé Cider with a spinach salad with apples and walnuts.
Beer fans looking for a lighter beverage without sacrificing any flavor should consider hopped ciders. Cider makers “dry-hop” or add the hops, usually in the secondary stage of fermentation, for a more pronounced aroma. The finished product is floral and herbaceous. Try a Citizen Cider Lake Hopper with spicy chicken wings. The sweetness of the cider can mitigate the saltiness of the chicken, while the hoppy notes accentuate any of the spice.
As previously mentioned, it’s not all about the apples. Pear cider can be as refreshing as a glass of white wine. If shrimp cocktail is on the menu, the dry, crisp flavor of a Samuel Smith’s Organic Perry would pair nicely with it.
For those who like their drinks on the sweeter side, sipping on Crispin Cider Company’s Blackberry Pear might be the move. This light-bodied, fruit-forward cider is an ideal accompaniment for desserts such as a fresh fruit plate or a berry tart.
If oysters are on your menu, then look no further than a French cider like Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie. Made in a style similar to that of Champagne, this cider’s brut-like dryness and effervescence cut through the brininess of an oyster.
For those with daring palates, consider a Basque cider such as Isastegi Sidra. It’s acidic, bone-dry and funky. If you’re a fan of kombucha or natural wines, this may be your new favorite drink. Pair it with a grilled bluefish. The funk of the fish matches the earthy notes of the cider, while the acidity cuts through the oily richness.
But if playing it safe is your thing, you can always enjoy a Strongbow cider with some charcuterie such as soppressata or spicy capicola. The cider’s sweetness should temper some of the heat from peppery meats.
No matter which style you choose, cider can add a refreshing twist to your outdoor dining.