Cider cocktails offer a sparkly alternative for fall quaffing

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Hard cider consumption is on the rise in the U.S. as thirsty bar and restaurant (and ballgame and liquor store) patrons increasingly order the crisply sweet alternative to beer and wine. No surprise, then, that mixologists are crafting cocktails from the fruit-based beverage.

“Cider gives cocktails that beautiful fruity backbone,” says Ambrosia Borowski, a bartender at Chicago’s Fountainhead who is developing a hard cider cocktail program for the Northman, a “ciderpub” opening this fall in Lincoln Square. Ciders also provide bubbles, plus “a more boozy experience” as a mixer than soda and many beers due to their higher alcohol level.

The three major types of cider offer their different qualities to a cocktail for the bartender’s consideration. British-style ciders (which most American ciders are based on) lean toward a dry and tannic style, while French tend to be more funk- and fruit-forward. Spanish sidras, which are still, possess a high acidity and a slight salinity that brightens the cocktails they are mixed into.

Classic examples of cider cocktails include the Snakebite (a 50-50 mix of beer and hard cider) and the colonial Stone Fence (2 ounces bourbon or rum plus 12 ounces hard cider over ice, topped with a dash of Angostura bitters). Bartenders are not only mixing up their versions of these classics, but also subbing cider in new takes on old bar favorites.

The bar (on Orchard Street, appropriately enough) is the bricks-and-mortar affirmation of a fermented-cider revival that has fueled a rapid growth in producers, drinkers and other cider bars, including Bushwhacker Cider in Portland, Ore.; Upcider in San Francisco; and Capitol Cider in Seattle. Even big brewers like MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch have begun turning out ciders.