New York’s Cider Week kicked off this past weekend at the New Amsterdam Market and will go through the 23rd, celebrating the deliciousness that is fermented apple juice. Unlike beer or wine, however, cider isn’t very well known, perhaps because people think it refers to the plastic jug of the sweet stuff sold at pick-your-own apple orchards. But as an alcoholic beverage, cider is surprisingly complex with several styles ranging from sparkling to still, and dry to sweet. So what better time to pick up a bottle? One of the participating cider makers, Jason Grizzanti of Doc’s Draft Cider and Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, offers up the best reason to pick up a bottle: “John Adams drank a pint of cider every day and lived to be about 91. Hard to dispute that!”
Interestingly, most apple orchards have been developed for eating apples, whereas cider apples are more bitter and tannic, making them good for producing drinks but not for eating. Doug Fincke of Montgomery Place Orchard and Annandale Cidery uses Golden Russett, Stayman Winesap, Northern Spy, Elstar, Red Vein and Kingston Black varieties to make their semi-dry cider, using a champagne yeast to start the process. Grizzanti, meanwhile, observes that Winesap and Empire add acid to ciders while Joshua Gold is good for sweetness, and Goldrush for tannin and acidity.
One benefit of cider is that, unlike wine, it doesn’t have to be aged. “In its entirety, the whole process takes eight to 10 weeks,” explains Grizzanti. “Our process to make our non-sparkling ciders basically mimics white-wine fermentation: a close attention to yeast selection, temperature and timing,” says Dan Wilson, who owns Slyboro Cidery along with Susan Knapp.
“We found that our sparkling cider goes especially well with pork, chicken, and spicy foods, especially Thai and other Asian cuisines, and barbecue,” notes Knapp. Grizzanti seconds barbecue as a great match with cider and also suggests pairing cider with cheese-based salads.
Cider dinner pairings, tastings, and other events will be going on throughout the city all week (today’s lineup includes an ice cider tasting at Brooklyn Brainery, a home cider-making tutorial at the Brooklyn Kitchen, a cider tasting at Bierkraft, a meet-the-cider-maker at Good Beer, and a women-in-cider panel at Murray’s Cheese).