Sophisticated Cider

This refreshing summertime drink is making a comeback.

BY ELIN McCOY

PHOTOGRAPH BY ZACHARY ZAVISLAK

ROGER WEISMAN, THE BARTENDER at Tertulia restaurant in New York, starts splashing Trabanco Cosecha Propia Natural Cider in a glass. He gradually raises the bottle higher and higher to pour a long, arcing stream. “This Spanish escanciar technique mixes air in, making bubbles,” Weisman says as he hands me the pale, cloudy, slightly fizzy drink. “It’s kind of a flamenco move.”

The cozy, brick-walled West Village spot, which opened last summer, evokes the rustic cider houses of Spain’s northwest Asturias region, where wild beaches and dry, earthy sidras are the main attractions.

Cider, long considered a simple yet refreshing drink for summer, is becoming more sophisticated and complex. Made in a similar manner to wine, by fermenting apple juice with yeast, true hard cider is often aged in barrels, vintage dated and bottled with a cork. The best examples, from small, artisanal producers such as Trabanco, are leading a cider revival. London’s Cider Tap, with more than 100 labels, opened last year. Valerie Corbin, assistant buyer at New York’s Astor Wines & Spirits, says the store’s sales of more than 20 brands have doubled every year since 2010.

The Cosecha Propia tastes tart and tangy, with refreshing acidity and about half of the alcohol of wine. Even better is the golden, sparkly 2007 Poma Aurea that Weisman pours into a large wineglass. Refermented in the bottle the way champagne is, it resembles a good brut sparkling wine. I sip it alongside sharp sheep’s milk cheese and salty jamon serrano.

At Michelin-starred Gramercy Tavern, I find seven examples from four countries that range from mouth-puckeringly dry to dessert sweet, elegant to funky, complex to simple.

The apple-rich regions of France, Spain and Britain have local cider traditions going back about 800 years. French ciders tend to be lighter and more subtle; Spanish ones, dry, tart and earthy; British ones, crisp and strong, like lager. The new American examples fall somewhere between the French and British styles.

“Artisanal hard cider is where the craft beer movement was 20 years ago,” says Greg Hall, who became a ciderphile a couple of decades ago in a northern English pub that had 40 varieties on tap. He started Chicago-based Virtue Cider last year after his family sold Goose Island Beer Co. to Anheuser-Busch InBev NV for $38.8million. On a May visit to New York, he was pouring tastes of his first creation, RedStreak.

Prohibition put an end to America’s early tradition. “Now, the big challenge,” Hall says, “is finding proper apples, the bittersweet ciderworthy varieties.”

Today’s cider revival is bringing those apples — and a great summer drink — back.

ELIN McCOY IS THE DRINKS COLUMNIST FOR BLOOMBERG MARKETS. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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