I actually remembered to do a Thanksgiving cider article this year, so here it goes! A list of some suggestions (at least for folks who can get these in their area) for Thanksgiving-dinner friendly ciders. Besides pairing with a variety of foods, I think the ideal holiday cider will appeal to a wide audience (presuming you will share it with the table). However, these selections will of course sway towards my personal tastes.
French ciders – French ciders are inherently food-friendly, and have a wide appeal, typically being mid-level sweetness and apple-forward, but often having surprising complexity. Its fun to share something unique (imported) with guests too. Plus, they have a lower ABV, which can be ideal for meals earlier in the day. Some of my favorites are from Domaine de la Minotiere, Eric Bordelet, Kystin, La Chouette, L’Hermitiére, Manoir de Grandouet, and Pierre Huet. I recently picked up a 5L mini keg of Bordelet, but I’m saving that for Christmas. The easiest French cider to find for some may be Dan Armor, sold at Trader Joe’s, and at only $5 / 750ml, its an excellent value, and something I wouldn’t hesitate to serve at my house. My top American-made French-style cider pick is 2 Towns Cidre Bouche.
AeppelTreow Appely Doux – This Wisconsin methode champenoise (naturally sparkling) selection is mid-level sweetness with a flavor profile of citrus, green apple, honey, and floral. It would make a nice champagne alternative anytime.
Alpenfire Spark! – This Washington cider is a great introduction to heritage ciders, with some rich notes of apple pomace, honey, orange, and leather, but remaining mid-level sweetness and clean.
Bertolinos Hard Cider – This Italian cider is mid-level sweetness, has some good fizz, and notes of honey, pineapple, and grapefruit. Especially wide crowd appeal from my experience.
Eden Specialty Ciders – This Vermont cidery may have started with ice ciders (which I cover later), but they make some amazing regular ciders with wide appeal, such as their super complex Sparkling Semi-Dry, rich Guinevere’s Pearls, or new canned Heritage cider, which has to be the highest quality cider I’ve ever seen in a can.
Eve’s Rustica – This New York mid-sweetness cider has some unique notes of honey, cream/vanilla, and fruit, all expertly crafted just from the apples and yeast.
Liberty Kingston Black – This Washington single varietal is made only from the iconic Kingston Black apples, yet I think it would have a wide appeal, as it retains some sweetness (semi-dry), is flavorful, and doesn’t cross over into funky/sour/bitter territory.
Slyboro Old Sin – This New York semi-dry cider has some rich tannic flavor reminiscent of English cider, with notes of butterscotch, caramel, and tropical fruit, and is another selection which would make a great introductory heritage cider. Lovely color to it too!
Snowdrift – This Washington cidery has several Thanksgiving-worthy crowd-pleasing cider selections, such as their Cidermaker’s Reserve (semi-dry, sparkling, fruity, and complex), Seckel Perry (mid-level sweetness, made only from Seckel pears), and Cliffbreaks Blend (semi-sweet, tart, and fruity).
Tilted Shed Smoked – This dry cider hails from California, and is unique, nuanced, oaky, and slightly smokey. Probably a bit less likely to be widely appealing, but I think it would be appreciated by certain audiences, and to me seems uniquely suited to Thanksgiving dinner.
Wandering Aengus Bloom – This Washington cider is mid-level sweetness and made from heirloom apples, but has widely appealing familiar notes of honey, green apple, and tropical fruit.
Whitewood Jonathan – This Washington cider is a single-varietal of Jonathan apples, and dry to semi-dry, but super approachable, being apple-forward with notes of citrus and honey.
ice cider – For a special treat with dessert, try ice cider. It is made from naturally concentrating apple juice using cold to increase the sugar content before fermenting, resulting in a higher ABV sweet dessert cider bursting with flavor. One of my favorites is Eden Brandy Barrel Aged Heirloom.
Pommeau – Also, Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) is another great dessert cider option. It is made by fortifying cider (either fermented or unfermented juice) with distilled apple juice (brandy). Like ice cider, it is a nice sipping option, although it is available in a wide range of sweetness. Some of my favorites are from 2 Towns, Etienne Dupont, EZ Orchards, Herout, and Wandering Aengus.
Visit the Pick Cider campaign website for lots more great info, and try your local fine bottle shop or online, such as through Cider in Love or VinoShipper. No matter which cider/s you choose, I’d encourage you to pick up some extra bottles, as a good cider can easily turn even those who have sworn off cider into cider lovers, holidays are holidays, and plus with the lower ABV, a bottle doesn’t go as far as wine.