Mark my words, it’s happening with dry cider.
This isn’t the sugary, boozed-up apple juice that’s mass-marketed to your local watering hole. The cider I’m talking about is fragrant and bubbly like sparkling wine, with a price point to match. Dry ciders can range from pale and delicately fizzy to deep golden, full-bodied and foamy. As Erika Janik, author of Apple: A Global History, writes, “If you think all hard ciders are the same, it’s time to start drinking. Cider (assume I mean hard when I say it) exists in as infinite number of varieties as there are apples in the world. And that’s not even mentioning the countless ways the juice of apples can be distilled and fermented.”
With those sage words in mind, here are my dry cider selections for pairing with a Thanksgiving meal. They’re low alcohol, at 6-7 percent on average, for easy sipping that won’t give you the spins, and all run under $20 a bottle.
Farnum Hill Ciders in New Hampshire is one of the best known dry cider producers in the Northeast, turning out a range of bottlings that change subtly with the seasons. I sampled a bitingly fresh summer cider this June when visiting Vermont, but the readily available semi-dry or extra-dry bottles are super versatile, matching well not only with turkey and cranberries but pork, potatoes, sauerkraut, and beyond. Or see if you can catch one of their one-of-a-kind Dooryard batches.
Further north, across the border in Québec, comes the adorably named “crackling carbonated cider” from Luk e Luk. A pale, light-bodied cider made from McIntosh apples, Luk’s cidre (as they say in French) is reminiscent of vinho verde. Crisp and refreshing, try this at the start of the meal in place of a Champagne cocktail to get guests in the mood.
In the Basque region of Spain, less-carbonated natural ciders like Isastegi are the norm. The crisp lemon notes and creamy, unfiltered body (like a wheat beer without the sweet spiciness) make this cider seem like a cross between a beer, a shandy, and a Sauvignon Blanc. Just a bit sour, it’s unusual but memorable, and a friend to that big dish of bacon-studded Brussels sprouts on the sideboard.
Cyril Zangs is proof that the the French aren’t just sitting around pressing apples to make Calvados. Up in Normandy, they’re fermenting this golden, malty cider that’s stronger in flavor and color than most of the dry ciders on the list. The word most often applied to this pour is “funky,” and it’ll pair well with the main meal as well as clove and cinnamon-redolent Thanksgiving desserts.
Finally, if you’re feeling a bit British this Thanksgiving, pop open an Aspall Dry, a traditional hard cyder (yes, cyder!) that’s been made by the Chevalier family in Suffolk, England for eight generations. Can’t get more traditional than that. Apple expert Janik’s favorite dry cider has a bubbly bite similar to Champagne, which makes it not such a bad idea to stock up for New Year’s Eve—it’s coming sooner than you think.