Apple harvest season is here, which means pies, cider doughnuts and maybe a little bobbing, if you’re feeling festive. I love apples, especially when they’re served in a glass. I’m talking about hard cider – apple cider’s potent cousin. It’s such a fantastic alternative to bubbly this time of year.
There are some wonderful hard ciders here in the states, including Foggy Ridge made in southern Virginia. At Brabo, a Kimpton restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, sommelier Matt Carroll substitutes a dry cider as a first-course tasting menu pairing. It has a fresh tartness (I call it a “reset button” for the guests’ palates after a long day and before a long meal), but keeps one foot in the tradition of starting with bubbles.
Some of my favorite ciders come from France. Calvados, made in Normandy, is brandy made from apples and sometimes pears. It gets its smooth, fresh taste from being aged in oak barrels for at least two years. Think of it as a way to warm up on a cold night, and pair it with hard cheese and nuts to enhance the flavor.
Boulard Cidre de Normandy is crafted in the same region as Calvados. It has a sweeter, slight fruity flavor and is packed with apple cider notes. Serve it in champagne flutes and surprise guests at your next dinner party.
For a more festive sip, try a Kimpton favorite: mulled cider. You’ll need quite a few ingredients to make it, but the recipe itself is simple: Take a bottle of rye whisky and add to it rock sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, clove, nutmeg, star anise and loads of orange and lemon peel. Let this mixture sit for a week or more. You’ll then add it to hot apple cider and top it with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.
We serve this delicious concoction during many of our hotels’ wine hours through the holiday season. Hope to toast with you soon!
Updated April 20, 2016