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5 Hard Ciders to Make You Love Hard Cider

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When you buy a bottle of hard cider, you’re getting a two-for-one. It’s a drink even the snootiest of guests will love—dry, crisp, and complex—and it’s also a versatile ingredient to keep around. Use hard cider in your gravy, in your cold-weather punches, in stews, and even desserts.

Like all ciders, hard cider starts with orchard-grown apples (or pears, if that’s your thing). Bushels of apples are gathered, cleaned, and ground into a pomace, according to the book Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols. That pomace is then pressed to release the juice. If you are on the hunt for non-alcoholic cider, congratulations, you’re done. Hard cider has a few more steps involved—namely, fermentation.

The sugar in apple juice converts to alcohol during the fermentation process. That’s all thanks to yeast, which eats up the sugar and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide must be periodically released from the container—colloquially called burping—so that pressure doesn’t build up to dangerous levels. After primary fermentation, some cider makers continue the fermentation (in a process called malolactic fermentation if you want to sound fancy) to create the lactic acid in the cider. That lactic acid gives it a cloudy look, a creamier texture, and a funkier taste and smell.

There are tons of varietals of hard cider, and like wine or craft beer, they’ll all have unique characteristics based on the ingredients used, the fermentation process, and other factors left up to the cider makers. Some choose to include other ingredients like hops or other fruits to enhance or fine tune the flavor of the final product.

No matter how it’s made, cider is as delicious paired with your dinner as it is an ingredient in it. Here are five ciders that Bon Appétit editors love.

Long Island–based Wölffer Estate is well known for their wine—specifically their rosé—but their ciders are somewhat of a hidden gem. Senior test kitchen editor Shilpa Uskokovic calls Wölffer’s Dry White Cider her “old reliable” in the kitchen. With a dry, delicate apple flavor, and hints of that funky yeast aroma, Wölffer is a well balanced, easy drinking white cider.

Associate visuals editor Travis Rainey did not like cider—until he took a sip of Willow Oaks. “The cider that Willow Oaks produces has a whole range of tastes,” he says, “from floral to earth to fruity.” The Maryland based farm that makes craft ciders and wines. Willow Oaks’ “All In” uses several of the organic apple varieties grown on their orchard for this slightly fizzy, oak-aged cider with a big apple aroma.

Artifact Cider Project, from Florence Massachusetts, is associate director of social media Urmila Ramakrishnan’s go-to when it comes to hard ciders. Artifact describes this wild-fermented cider as “layered and tannic,” and notes that it has a lot of structure, and a good amount of acid. That means a balanced cider without too much sweetness—the holy grail.

For senior commerce editor Noah Kaufman, cider doesn’t get much better than Shacksbury’s Classic. Located in Vermont, Shackbury makes a variety of ciders with organic apples. The Classic has a clear golden color, a light carbonation, and is noted as being dry but balanced, with a clean finish.

Founded in 2019, the Wild State Cider cidery is based in Duluth, Minnesota and makes five flagship ciders as well as specialty ciders and limited releases. Director of culinary production Kelly Janke is partial to the Classic Dry. It’s got a light tart note, and a sharp crispness so that each sip begs you to take another swig.

Mustardy CiderBraised Pork Chops in a turquoise pot

Achieve cooked-all-day depth in under an hour with these tender pork chops, simmered in a rich cider gravy.

View Recipe

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