Here in the U.S., Memorial Day has become synonymous with “bust out the grill time.” Although wine pairs great with barbecue, when it comes to refreshment, a chilled cider really does the trick. Cider is perfect for this time of year that straddles spring and summer. Notes of fruit and crisp bubbles combine to give you a cider that goes well with food while still retaining individual flavors. While Angry Orchard is always a reliable hard cider, we wanted to introduce you to off-kilter ciders that are still widely available. Here are nine of our favorites.
1. Crispin Venus Reigns BEST OVERALL
This is a cider that tastes and smells more like a mild, fortified wine – probably because it’s aged in red wine casks. Although a pear cider, Venus Reigns is full of plum, cherries, and brown sugar. It tastes a lot like poached pears. This is a sophisticated cider with an impactful nose that will go well with steak (cooked medium rare, please), but will also complement fruit salad and other refreshing desserts. Plus, the lovely pink color will fool your friends into thinking they’re drinking rosé.
2. Bad Seed Old Elmer Traditional Cider BEST ON A BUDGET
The first sip of this ultra dry cider isn’t exactly welcoming, but a few more tries will make you a believer. This isn’t what you’d expect from a cider, because it tastes more like wood than like apples, but the wrung out flavor is perfect for cutting through a spiced steak or a cheesy burger. Also, at roughly $3 a can, this is a bargain cider. Enjoy a few of these while kicking back with your friends by the barbecue.
Other than its colorful artwork, this cider has another unique thing going for it: added cherry juice. Forget your cherry biases – this is one cider that incorporates cherry beautifully. You won’t get typical medicinal cherry flavor, or sickly sweet generic fruitiness. Instead, a hint of fresh, sour cherry juice mingles with a touch of honey to give you a delightful, mouth-warming gulp. This is the perfect thing to sip by the waterside.
Although this isn’t a particularly complex cider, it has a nice dry crispness and a lovely buttery aftertaste. If you’re not a fan of oaked Chardonnays, you probably won’t like this cider. But if you are, you’ll delight in this Champagne-textured, simple cider. This is a great sipper for when you’re snacking on popcorn, Chex Mix, or crackers. It’s a great cider to introduce your wine-loving friends to as well, as it has the nice, light taste of a light-bodied sparkling wine. Remember, Hawk Haus is simple, so don’t be expecting too many crazy flavors. This is just a good, reliable, dry cider with a sparkling wine twist.
This Irish Cider is made from hand-pickled apples as opposed to machine-harvested fruit. Whether or not you care about that is up to you, but the fact remains that the cider delivers a toasty, non-traditional taste that strikes a balance between apple-sweetness with a graham-cracker starch quality. It’s very enjoyable, and the opposite of seasonal. In fact, we could drink this comforting, oaky cider any time of year. Enjoy with creamy desserts, chicken, or even lamb.
With an ABV of 8%, this nutty, dry cider is pretty high on cider’s alcohol spectrum. However, its smooth taste combined with its subtle, fizzy texture makes gulping Slyboro way too easy. Like Hawk Haus, this isn’t a cider that points you in esoteric flavor directions, but it is an unsweet alternative to Angry Orchard that remains firmly traditional while still holding intrigue. This is a great cider to pass around mid-meal to clear the palate.
This is the most traditional cider on the list, a great “prime” cider, so to speak. While Smith & Forge is sweet, it won’t leave you feeling like you just devoured a candy apple. This is the cider we’d pass around to our guests as they were just starting to arrive for the afternoon. It’s a great cider to drink while chatting and manning the grill.
Despite – or perhaps in addition to – the odd name, this is a wondrous cider. Calling upon cleansing, herbal notes like ginger and lemon, Dirty Mayor is ideal if you’re serving pasta salads with vinaigrettes or even a pickled vegetable platter. This cider is the perfect foil for more traditional, fruit forward cocktails.
Elderberries and elderflower produce some of the most umami tastes found in alcohol. In this cider, the tart flavors of the elderberries add a little zing to the apples’ sugar. This whimsical cider’s unusual taste will leave you feeling dreamy and sated, so we recommend having it after your full meal, perhaps as you’re waxing poetic around a bonfire.