While you might think that all hard ciders are equal—because they're made from apples, after all—it's a surprisingly diverse category. You can pick up a six-pack in the beer cooler or explore well-crafted bottles that rival wine from small cider houses. At around 6 percent ABV, hard ciders are easy to drink and a few include fruits beyond apple, too. While some are a refreshing alternative to beer, others are worthy of the dinner table and a few are great as cocktail mixers.
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Named for an apple-loving goat, Molley Chomper is an orchard-to-bottle cidery in North Carolina. The heirloom apples come from small orchards and are pressed fresh at the cidery. They take online orders and ship to a good number of U.S. states. Among their offerings, you'll find tannins and acidity reminiscent of wine. The Mountain Maelstrom cider is a little sweet, while Porch Swing is a balance of sweet and dry. Their semi-dry ciders include Bent Apple (aged in bourbon barrels) and School House Blend, which has delicious butterscotch notes. Blueberries, cherries, and pumpkins make it into their other ciders as well.
02 of 10
A lot of great ciders are coming out of the Pacific Northwest and Finnriver is one to check out. The Washington-made cider is available online, at the farm, and area farmers markets. They make both traditional ciders featuring blends of apple varieties and contemporary craft ciders that reimagine the drink. Whether you're looking for a sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, or dry cider, their core range has you covered. On the innovative side, their dry-hopped, ginger, lavender, and saffron ciders are intriguing, while the habanero-infused version is sure to grab your attention.
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Upstate New York is home to Eve's Cidery. Here, you will find an exploration of ciders as fascinating as any Finger Lakes winery has to offer. The fruit—both apple and pear—is organically grown in the orchards and the cidery provides an amazing production story behind each bottle. A taste of terroir can be found in each vintage of these ciders. You'll experience it in dry still ciders like Albee Hill, in the off-dry sparkling Darling Creek, and in the sweet ice cider simply named Essence. It's a beautiful and expansive collection to explore. They ship to most states and you'll want to keep up on their offerings because they do sell out.
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Keeping a family tradition alive in Michigan is the goal of JK's Farmhouse Ciders. The orchard dates to before the Civil War and the organically-grown apples continue to be pressed and fermented on-site. Most of the ciders are USDA certified organic, they enjoy a decent distribution nationwide, and there's a nonalcoholic cider that everyone can enjoy. The old-fashioned taste of these ciders can be found in every bottle, whether it's the original estate cider, Scrumpy, or the rich Northern Neighbor that uses an apple blend from Michigan and Saskatchewan. Pears make an appearance in The Pair Perry, while Winterruption offers some apple pie spice.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Located in Vermont, don't let the cans deter you from Shacksbury's core ciders. They offer a well-crafted journey of cider making and you'll find bottled cider, too. Available from their online store, they ship to an impressive number of states. Shacksbury's Dry is a meal-worthy cider that's complex and bittersweet. The Arlo offers a blended taste of Spanish and New England apples aged in chestnut barrels. And, the rosé cider is made like the pink wine, complete with Syrah and Zinfandel grape skins. You'll also find collaborations with breweries and California and Texas vineyards, cider-aged in gin barrels, and even foraged apple ciders.
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Oregon is the home of 2 Towns Ciderhouse, the state's largest craft cider maker. The collection of sassy ciders is the result of working with orchards in the Pacific Northwest. They have a growing distribution and can be shipped to almost every state. Their core range includes Brightcider (a standard), Outcider (unfiltered), and The Bad Apple (imperial style,) and all are easy drinkers. When you're ready for something different, their flavored ciders are a ton of fun. The raspberry and pineapple are juicy, session-worthy ciders and many of the seasonals have a clear beer influence that will impress anyone.
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Among the big names in hard cider, it is difficult to compete with Strongbow. It's simply a great example of a well-rounded cider and it's everywhere. While you may be most familiar with bottles of Gold Apple, the Original Dry has an unmatched crispness that's a perfect pairing for food. They've also ventured into flavors with the dry and tasty Pear Secco and the wine-like Rosé Apple.
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If you're a fan of the Belgian beer Stella Artois, then you'll want to give Cidre a try. The experience is very similar and it has a pleasant balance of sweet and dry. Show up to a casual dinner party or autumn barbecue with this cider and you're sure to win over beer and wine drinkers alike.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Swedish cider maker, Rekorderlig, continues to bring tasty, dependable ciders to the market. You will want to add these to your bar because they make really good mixed drinks. The Strawberry-Lime cider, for instance, glows against pomegranate and elderflower in the "for the record" cocktail. With flavors like the classic spiced apple, passionfruit, and wild berry, the mixing possibilities are endless.
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Possibly the most recognized cider brand of all, Angry Orchard is likely the average drinker's introduction to hard cider. The flagship Crisp Apple is a nice, reliable cider and the brand offers a variety of flavors. Enjoyable enough on their own, these ciders excel as cocktail mixers, shining in recipes alongside strawberries and other fruits as well as bacon vodka in the tantalizing bacon me angry cocktail.