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Hard cider has come a long way since it was the thirst-quencher of choice in colonial times. The boozy beverage, which trumped beer in popularity well into the nineteenth century, is once again on the rise in the United States.
Craft brewers are putting New York's bounty as the second largest apple-producing state in the country to good use, and modern-day drinkers can enjoy the fruits of their labors. There are a wide array of ciders ranging from crisp and dry to sweet or spiced, still and carbonated, and even ones infused with hops, beer's essential ingredient.
Sip at the source by taking a day trip to one or more of these four Hudson Valley cider makers for tours, live music, dining, and the chance to sample limited-edition ciders only available on site. But if you can't make it out of town, not to worry. Hard cider will be flowing during Cider Week New York City in November.
Nine Pin Cider
In the capital city's Warehouse District, Nine Pin Cider—their name comes from a form of bowling once played by Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley—serve their drinks in a small, intimate tasting room with indoor and outdoor seating and apple-themed décor. Always on tap are the dry, sparkling Signature, Belgian, and Ginger hard ciders, along with four rotating varieties. Bottles are also available, so if you're the designated driver you can take some cider to go and imbibe at home.
The tasting room (Nine Pin Cider/via Facebook)
Nine Pin has several special events taking place this fall, including "Drink Albany," a block party on October 3 co-hosted with two neighboring beer breweries and a distillery. Or turn up on November 14 for the "Pressing Party," where the main feature is a pressing of more than 85 different kinds of apples to create the "Cider Monster." Bottles of the 2014 Cider Monster, pressed at last year's shindig, will be unleashed that day.
All the apples used in Nine Pin ciders are sourced from orchards in the Hudson Valley, the Mohawk Valley, and the Capital region. "We owe a lot of our success to the local farmers that supply us with our juice," says Nine Pin's Josh Whelan. "Always drink New York apples!"
Orchard Hill Cider Mill
New Hampton, NY
Raise a glass to the resurgence of hard cider at Orchard Hill Cider Mill's Speakeasy Happy Hour. Prohibition brought an end to the legal sale of the alcoholic beverage and led orchard owners to begin growing apples suitable for pie-baking rather than brewing, a situation since rectified.
(Orchard Hill Cider Mill)
Farm-to-table bites made by a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef are on the menu during Happy Hour, while a mixologist is on hand crafting cocktails. If you're not in a cocktail mood, opt for some apple bubbly. Orchard Hill makes its Gold Label sparkling hard cider according to the same method used to produce champagne. Another grown ups-only concoction is the Ten66 Red Label, a combination of non-alcoholic sweet cider and apple brandy distilled and aged in French oak wine barrels.
The Speakeasy Happy Hour takes place on Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m., but you can stop by at other times to please your palette. Orchard Hill's tasting room—located on the grounds of Soons Orchards—is currently open seven days a week.
Bad Seed Cider Company
Since childhood friends Devin Britton and Albert Wilklow pooled their savings and opened Bad Seed Cider Company four years ago, production has jumped from 1,500 gallons to nearly 20,000 annually. The flagship Dry Hard Cider is a constant in the tap room, along with eight others that change weekly. Visitors can play a part in the cider making process by offering feedback on experimental batches.
(Bad Seed Cider Company/via Facebook)
In September and October, Bad Seed offers tours of their facility. Founders Devin and Albert often lead the tours themselves, revealing how they use a mix of old and new techniques to craft their ciders, which are made from apples grown on the property. Tours are $10 per person with cider tastings and $6 without. They last about 30 minutes and typically swing through the cider house, the cellars, and the bottling line (don't forget to wear practical shoes). Tours run until October 31, and the tap room is open on weekends through December 20.
Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery
You'll be hard pressed to run out of drink options at the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery, where an old apple packing house has been transformed into a rustically chic tasting room with wood-paneled walls and beamed ceilings. In addition to an award-winning traditional and dry-hopped apple cider, there are ones mingling apples with other fruits such as pears, pumpkin, sour cherries, and blackcurrants. The company also makes wines and spirits, including Black Dirt Apple Jack, an apple brandy barrel-aged aged a minimum of four years.
(Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery/via Yelp)
Live music takes place on weekends year-round. In nice weather, drinking and dining can be done on two patios adjoining the tasting room, which overlooks a pond and orchards. And if you have a desire to go apple picking this fall, you can do that here too.
Cider Week NYC, November 6-15
This libation celebration features cider producers from across New York State and elsewhere in the region.
(Cider Week NYC/via Facebook)
Tastings, dinners, tutorials, and other events take place at shops, bars, and restaurants throughout the city. Check www.ciderweeknyc.com for a schedule of cider-centric happenings.
Shannon McKenna Schmidt is a freelance writer and the co-author of Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West. A former New Yorker, she travels full-time and can be found on the web at www.EverywhereOnce.com.