As a 20-year-old studying abroad in Seville, Spain, I found myself enchanted by the flamenco music, the cobble-stoned streets, and the hand-poured café con leche available even in gas stations. However, when it came time to order a drink at a bar, I was overwhelmed, having never done so at home because of my underage status. After a few thoroughly misguided attempts at urbane sophistication (cloying, 80s-era cocktails like Grasshoppers and Piña Coladas), I finally settled on a go-to order: cider.
Spanish cider was crisp, dry, and refreshing, the perfect post-siesta libation. And while sangria gets all the press, cider is something of a Spanish institution, with the sidrerias (cider houses) offering cider straight from the barrel much like you might get wine at a more rustic venue.
When I took a spring break trip to Oxford, I discovered Strongbow, an English cider that hit similarly clean notes. Somehow, the beverage that worked so well in the Spanish heat also worked in the British damp.
However, after returning to the U.S. (and turning 21), I wasn’t able to find cider that worked so well. Most of the mass-marketed brands I tried were sweet and faintly chemical tasting, closer to soft drinks than wine. I stopped ordering cider, preferring instead to check out craft beers and work on developing a palate for wine. This continued for years; having lost my taste for the drink, I described myself as a cider agnostic.
Recently, though, I’ve been excited to hear about the craft cideries springing up around the country. Having had the opportunity to taste some of their offerings, both from cider-exclusive operations like Commonwealth Ciders to well-known brewing companies that also produce ciders, like Cigar City Brewing Company, I’m learning that there’s a whole world of quality cider out there. There are champagne-like, slightly sweet offerings to full-bodied, apple-forward brands. I’m eager to try them all.
Should the opportunity present itself, I’d love to return to Spain or England and really immerse myself in the cider culture that stretches back centuries. In the meantime, however, I’m glad to know that craft American cider is on the rise. Slowly but surely, I’m becoming a believer.