Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cider in the Summer: Along Came A Cider’s Guide

I used to live in Florida, so complaining about hot weather in upstate New York feels almost a like joke. Almost. I say almost though because almost nowhere around here has A/C and the predicted heat index for yesterday was 101 degrees Farenheit. These are the days when I begin my morning with iced coffee, slowly transition to cold cold water (with more ice), iced tea, cold cold sparkling water (usually with ice), and eventually cider (although I do intend to eventually try one of these bad boys:

Cold beverages really are how I deal with excessive heat, well those and afternoon naps on days that allow for them. But I cannot just clock out of life for two hours in the afternoon most of the time, so we’re back to relying on cold beverages.

Important Tangent: The Ice Issue

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t even think of spending time on the idea of ice. It seems obvious. If you like cider, you shouldn’t add ice, because it will dilute the beverage.  Mind you, there has been a concerted marketing push from some of the industrial cider companies (especially in the UK) to serve and drink cider over ice. I get it. They are trying to make cider a specifically summer drink  and iced drinks are summery.

My opinion? Don’t do it. There are more other ways to keep a beverage cold than I can readily try or evaluate, everything from beer koozies to whiskey stones and high tech gadgets. I’m partial to using a marble wine bottle cooler, myself. Try any of these techniques or toys you like, but mostly I recommend just chilling your cider well before serving it. If you’re going to transport it, chill it well and pack it well. Good luck.  

I’ve talked about the beverages suited better or worse to hot weather a few times before. Reaching back, I can definitely pick out a few ciders that pair well with ridiculous temperatures.

A few good ciders for summer: 

This because of its wonderful balance of dryness and effervescence. I think this is the quintessential profile for a hot weather cider

This cider has actually really grown on me since I first reviewed it. I liked it fairly well then, but I really love it now. This also achieves that perfect bubbly crispness and zesty acidity for a summer cider.

I can particularly recommend two other avenues for exploration. The first being semi-dry and dry perries. Ideally, I’d find one even more ephemeral and dry than this, but  that’s not always easy to find.

I think the other specialty cider best suited for summer is hopped cider. Here’s just one choice. I’ve reviewed a number of hopped ciders, and though they are far from equal many many of them are delicious. The aroma and citrusy notes just perfect the summer beverage in my book.

Mostly if I cannot say something good, I say something descriptive, or nothing at all. But for summer there are some ciders that just don’t work, even if the cider is otherwise interesting or tasty. 

Save these for later: I think the cranberry spice combo says it all here. It is a lovely beverage, but is the exact opposite of cooling. Anything with sweet notes of honey just doesn’t fly for me once it gets genuinely hot. There is a warm quality to honey that just doesn’t go away at any temperature. Do you know what’s hot? Fire and smoke. That’s why a smoked cider just seems roasty, toasty, and hot. Pass on this one till October or so. Sticky. Cider shandy should be good for cold because lemonade can be radically perfect on a hot afternoon. But this is so sticky sweet that I cannot recommend it, again except for as a float with gelato or sorbet. That summer drink dessert might just work.

 For me, summer is the time for tremendously bubbly dry cider served quite cold. This works with food, with friends, in sun, in shade, amidst chaos or quiet. Or there are the delicate perries or bold hopped ciders. All good choices.

In any case, cheers to summer. Let's enjoy it.


  1. I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE! I'm a huge cider fan and have been for some time but GOOD ciders seem so hard to come by outside of Europe. So I appreciate your finding them for me and your reviewing them so I don't have to waste time and money on the bad ones. Just one suggestion, it's hard to navigate and find what I want here so is there any way you can break it up by cider sweetness scale ie dry, sweet, etc. Also can you have a page on what your sweetness scale is? Dry, extra dry, sweet, extra sweet? or are you just doing dry and sweet? and are you doing carbonated and natural ciders? or just the former? (I find natural ciders have a funky/gross taste to them so i'm fine with that). Also maybe for the people who have never tried cider and are visiting you can put the sweetness scale in perspective, sweet, extra sweet, dry, extra dry are all different if you ask different people so maybe you could put a comparison next to each ie (extra sweet would be equivalent to a soda with 30 grams of sugar, etc)

    1. I'm so glad that you enjoy the blog. This is a tremendously useful comment. I'll definitely be implementing a few of these suggestions.

      I can definitely do some more categorization about the sweetness vs dryness scale.

      What I can definitely say is that my own palate tends to find most ciders sweeter than most casual cider drinkers.

      You've given me tons to think about. Thanks!