What is in this article?:
- Cider: America's drink returns
- Bringing wine drinkers to cider
The rise of cider sales in the United States over the past two years has been staggering.
Bringing wine drinkers to cider
For Carreiro, it's often the similarities between some wine and cider styles that make it an easy leap for new initiates.
"I approach cider from a wine angle,” he said. “I can connect to wine drinkers with cider. Guests that enjoy crisp, high-acid whites, or Champagne drinkers, are very open to trying ciders with similar characteristics.”
It can, in fact, be a fun exploration for many guests not expecting it, Carreiro added.
"I told the staff and managers that instead of pouring sparkling wine to those celebrating a special occasion, to pour them a splash of cider,” he said. “Ciders are festive and great aperitifs."
And with the range of cider styles and flavors, food pairing is easy. Matthew Kaner of Bar Covell in Los Angeles, and one of Food & Wine magazine's 2013 Sommeliers of the Year, described it this way: “I love cider as a food beverage. Whether with cheese, scallops, oysters, or even a savory dessert, the possibilities are seemingly endless with the gamut of flavor complexities I've seen.”
Smith is letting the cider speak for itself.
“The biggest revelation for people is that all cider is not sweet, or even 'apple-y,'” Smith said. “The range of ciders can be an awakening for those who have only tried the sweeter, ‘6-pack’ ciders.”
As guests become cider savvy, beverage directors like Kaner are raising the bar to meet new expectations.
“Now, with cider, people have come to expect the handmade, artisan approach that we’ve come to enjoy from the wine and beer worlds of late,” he said. “Why shouldn't farmers look at apple varieties in the same way they do grape clones and hop varieties? Grapes are merely fruit. Apples and pears yield huge potential in flavor.”
There are still many misconceptions about cider. For decades, the market has been flooded with mass-produced versions that are cloyingly sweet, over-carbonated and made with low-grade, bulk apple concentrate. But as the quality of fruit improves in the orchards, and producers become more skilled with fermentation and aging techniques, a new breed of ciders have hit the market. And it’s people like Michael Roper, owner of Hopleaf, a beer-focused bar in Chicago, who has seen this change firsthand.
“I can attest to the big uptick in cider sales and interest over the past couple of years; it’s huge,” he said. “We've always offered ciders during our nearly 22 years in business, but the growth in cider sales on draft and in bottles is astounding. While French, Basque and English ciders are still selling briskly along with American ciders from the Pacific Northwest, there is a tremendous growth and preference for local ciders from the Midwest. Cider is becoming a favorite of locavores.”
For bars and restaurants looking to diversify their offerings, and to capture new fans, cider is proving to be an exciting new category for wine drinkers and beer drinkers alike. Don’t let our forefathers down. Cider is America’s oldest beverage, and after nearly disappearing into the annals of history, it is on the rise with a ferocity rarely seen in the beverage world. Whether or not one chooses to offer two selections or 200, the writing is on the wall: Cider is back.
David Flaherty is the operations manager and beer and spirits director for Hearth Restaurant and the Terroir wine bars in New York. He is the cider and spirits editor for the New York Cork Report and also writes about wine, beer and spirits on his blog, Grapes and Grains, www.grapesandgrainsnyc.com.