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.