Like apple juice’s naughty cousin with a badass attitude, hard cider will wake up your taste buds with a refreshing slap of fermented apple flavors and alcoholic content. Basically a wine made from apples instead of grapes, hard cider can be still or sparkling, and is classified from dry to sweet. Apple cider can be anywhere from pale yellow to dark brown, depending on the filtering process between fruit pressing and fermentation; more traditional brands are darker and cloudier, while popular new brands are clear and crisp.
While hard apple cider tastes fantastic on its own straight from the bottle, you can give the drink a little pizzazz with the following cocktail recipes.
1. Snakebite – While it sounds scary, this light cocktail is an easy-to-make version of a shandy. Simply mix equal parts hard apple cider with your favorite lager. For style points, float the lager on top of the cider by adding the cider to your glass first, then slowly pouring the lager over the back of a spoon on top of it. If you prefer sweet drinks, you can also add in a dash of blackcurrant cordial – now your cocktail is called a Snakebite and Black.
2. Black Adder – Also a blend of beer and cider, this drink is a twist on the Black Velvet Champagne cocktail. Fill a champagne flute halfway full with chilled stout beer, such as Guinness. Float the cider on top of the stout by pouring it slowly over the back of the spoon, creating a two-layered drink. If the spoon trick is too much trouble for you, just mix the cider and stout together in your glass, turning your Black Adder into a cocktail called a Poor Man’s Black Velvet.
3. Bourbon Cider Cocktail – Stepping up our cider cocktails into liquor territory, this drink combines two of America’s favorite flavors (apples and bourbon) with a touch of cinnamon for a belly-warming experience. In a shaker, combine 1 ounce bourbon (such as Maker’s Mark) with 6 ounces hard cider and a dash of ground cinnamon. Shake gently and pour into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a fresh slice of apple.
4. Green Apple Cider – Bright green and packing a punch, this tasty cocktail is as easy to make as it is to drink. Simply add 1 ½ ounces of Midori (melon liqueur) to a glass of chilled hard cider. Enjoy cold.
5. Hot Apple Pie – Serve this hot cocktail in a heated mug to chase away winter chills and enjoy a grown-up taste of comfort food. Pour two ounces of Tuaca (a vanilla-citrus liqueur) into a warm mug or Irish coffee glass. Fill to the top with hard apple cider that has been heated almost to the boiling point, but not quite. Top with fresh whipped cream, and garnish with a stick of cinnamon.
6. Prairie Fire – Using hot sauce to counterbalance the crisp, cool cider, this redneck favorite goes down surprisingly well in the cold winter months. Pour yourself a glass of chilled hard cider, then float 1/8 teaspoon of Louisiana hot sauce (such as Tabasco) on top by pouring it slowly over the back of the spoon. As the hot sauce sinks, your cocktail will look like a prairie fire. Drink it quickly before the flames get out of control.
Image: laura padgett