Welcome to Pick Your Poison, wherein the world’s best bartenders help stock your bar, one spirit at a time.
Forget pumpkin beers. Fall is the time for cider.
While more common in Europe, hard cider is an increasingly popular drink of choice here in the U.S. — credit its approachability (wine, beer and non-beer drinkers can enjoy) and variety (there are regional and country differences, for starters).
For some boozy apple picks for fall, we went to the definitive source: Jeff Smith, co-owner of Portland’s Bushwhacker Cider, the nation’s first dedicated cider pub.
“We don’t have food, beer, or wine, we don’t have TVs or lottery, just a well-educated staff passionate about creating a fun environment to enjoy cider,” says Smith, who also notes his shop’s 300+ bottled ciders and always rotating list of cider drafts.
Smith’s hard cider picks for the season, in his own words:
Baird & Dewar – Constitution (Oregon)
"This Oregon cider is based on a New England-style cider, so it has raisins and mixed spices added to it. Its base is Newtown Pippin, with six other heirloom apples added to the blend. It’s fermented to 9.7% ABV in oak barrels, and aged for five months over winter. Notes of vanilla, raisin, brown sugar and nutmeg all come through."
Sea Cider – Prohibition (Canada)
"From Vancouver Island, this rum barrel-aged cider packs a commanding 12.5% ABV into a beautiful 750 ml bottle. Notes of fig, raisin, and brown sugar all combine in a soul-warming cider that’s available year round."
Worley’s - Red Hen (England)
"I’m a big fan of anything Worley’s does, but this one sticks out to me. It’s slightly sweeter than the Mendip Hills, but also has more body. With the use of sharp apples with the bittersweets, it has a distinctive spicy note to it."
Dragon’s Head – Manchurian (Washington)
"From Vashon Island, this cider features the Manchurian crabapple in a blend of other cider fruit. It’s crisp and clean, which reminds me of the first chilly nights of fall."
Crispin – Browns Lane (England)
"Probably my favorite mass-produced cider. It’s what we usually take home to drink. It’s semi-sweet, but does use English bittersweet fruit, so has a bit of tannins as well. It’s perfect to have in the yard when you’re raking leaves, or doing the last bit of yard work for the year. It also happens to be our best seller year after year."
Like the suggestions? Want to learn more about cider, including how to make it yourself? Check out Smith’s authoritative cider guide Craft Cider.