Ciders are a refreshing alternative to the bitter, hop-heavy flavour profiles of many types of beer. Cider contains alcohol, but the alcohol content will vary by brand. On average, most ciders are 4.5% - 7% alcohol by volume (ABV), while some ciders have an ABV as high as 10% or 12%. Drier ciders usually have a higher alcohol content because the yeast consumes a majority of their natural sugars. Tannic ciders should be served at cellar temperature, which is around 55 degrees. If you don't have a room in your house that is “castle temperature”, take the cider out of the fridge 15 minutes before you serve it.
If you are pouring a lower abv or “sessionable cider” say 4.5%-6% you could go ahead and serve 12-16 ounces in a single pour. If you are drinking a dessert or aperitif cider that is high abv, 10-16%, or a fortified cider like a pommeau, we suggest you serve a 2.5 oz pour.
Cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from the unfiltered juice of apples. Cider alcohol content varies, generally, between 3% and 8.5%, but some continental cider goes to 12% alcohol. In UK law, it must contain at least 35% apple juice (fresh or from concentrate). In the United States, there is a 50% minimum.
Serve at approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit: This serving temperature is similar to white wine. Additionally, if it's too cold, it can be difficult for guests to taste the diverse flavours. Alternatively, a cider that is served too warm can be unappetizing for guests.
Let ciders “open up” as you would with a nice white wine; removing from the fridge or ice chest and setting out for 5 minutes at room temperature will do the trick. The sweet spot for enjoying craft cider is 50 to 55 degrees, though with the dry, tannic ciders, we even like them closer to room temperature
Producing a quality hard cider, like wine, is a science of synergy within itself. And at the risk of oversimplifying the chemistry and steps involved, the process goes something like this: cider mills select specific cider apples that become a little boozy via fermentation. The addition of yeast and sometimes sugar, colouring, conditioning, fining and finally bottling produce what our own Town Dish co-founder/cider connoisseur, Mary Bigham, touts as “new champagne.”
Don’t drink ice-cold cider.
Extreme cold masks flavors and aromatics, especially in ciders fermented from traditional tannic apples. Let ciders “open up” as you would with a nice white wine; removing from the fridge or ice chest and setting out for 5 minutes at room temperature will do the trick. The sweet spot for enjoying craft cider is 50 to 55 degrees, though with the dry, tannic ciders, we even like them closer to room temperature. Let it warm up a bit. You’ll thank us later.
Use the right glassware.
Do yourself a favour and don’t drink cider straight out of the bottle. If you want to fully experience all a cider has to offer, pour it into a glass. Fluted glasses provide the best vehicle for performing an organoleptic assessment (see #4 below). Pilsner, fluted Champagne, tulip and bona fide cider glasses are the best choices as they accentuate the bubbles in an effervescent cider and enhance the aromatics. Wine, Belgian beer and porter-stout glasses work in a pinch. Such a beautiful sight, too, so get out that camera phone and start snappin’!
When tasting a flight of ciders, do so in order.
When tasting several wines in one sitting, it’s customary to start with whites and follow with reds, or in the case of reds, start with the lighter-bodied and less tannic and end with the fullest-bodied and most tannic. This doesn’t necessarily translate to cider, because unlike wine, ciders are made with a huge range of flavours, adjuncts and techniques. Start with the least “interrupted” ciders, as this gives you the best experience of each style:
Learn and use organoleptic terminology.
“Organoleptic” refers to the sensory evaluation of an alcoholic beverage: its appearance, aromas, flavors, body and finish. You’re probably more accustomed to evaluating wine (and to a different extent, craft beer) for these qualities, but your experience of cider will benefit from careful, thoughtful analysis as well. Spending 5 minutes assessing cider attributes makes one appreciate well-crafted ciders even more.
Try pairing cider with food.
Lighter-bodied ciders often make great “session” ciders—for example, drinking without a food pairing on a hot day or after a long day at work. Others, particularly those that are on the dry side and made from traditional tannic cider apples, are incredibly complex and pair wonderfully with meals and appetizers. Cheeses (fresh and aged), oysters, crab, all things pork and charcuterie are classic pairings, but fish, burgers, pizza, poultry and winter squash all make interesting combinations. Experiment! Some semi-dry ciders make for lovely bubblies, are great as an aperitif or as a New Year’s Eve or wedding toast.