October is apple month. Celebrate accordingly.
Way back before there were pumpkin spice lattes, apple cider was the sentimental fall beverage of choice—fresh-pressed from the season’s harvest, ready to warm up with a dash of cinnamon (or whiskey), or guzzle cold, hazy and unfiltered. And while cider is still a hallmark of the season, nowadays there are so many more ways to drink the humble apple. From dry, subtly-flavored hard ciders to spirits made using only the fruit, here are five apple beverages to drink throughout the season.
If the thought of brandy conjures associations with your grandmother’s bridge club, it’s time to revisit the digestif. Pennsylvania craft distillery Boardroom Spirits has been making vegetable-based liquors from carrots and beets, and they’re transforming fruit into eau de vie-style brandy, too. The 80-proof ‘A’ is made entirely from local Red Delicious apples, and contains no added sugar, extracts, artificial flavors, or colors. The result is a warm, clean, spiced-apple flavor with a slightly peppery finish. Nearby, Manatawny Still Works is home to the state’s most decorated whiskey this year, but also makes a range of spirits, including Apple Brandy, made using a mix of seven different apple varieties from an orchard only six miles away. Manatawny’s master distiller Max Pfeffer ages the brandy in American oak barrels for a smooth, slightly dry digestif with notes of brown sugar and spices. Sip them chilled, neat, or use them to mix up a batch of seasonal cocktails.
Hard cider has gotten a much-needed makeover in recent years, with craft cider-makers trading in super-sweet for drier, more nuanced flavor profiles. To wit, Virtue Cider in Fennville, Michigan is known for its farmhouse ciders—hand-pressed, barrel-aged, and made with local fruit. Founded by celebrated former brewmaster Gregory Hall, the lineup includes flagship Michigan Apple, made with local heirloom apples, and Lapinette, a Norman-style brut cider fermented with French yeast and aged in French oak barrels, among many others. Based in another top apple-producing state, Cider Creek in the Finger Lakes region of New York, makes four blends year-round, including the Premium Farmhouse—an unfiltered, French-style cider fermented with champagne yeast for a crisp, dry finish. Throughout the rest of the year, the husband-and-wife team adds seasonal varieties to the lineup, like the Dreams of Charlotte—an award-winning, pleasantly tart strawberry, guava, and honey cider, fermented with brett lambic. Drink these as you would wine or beer—its complexity and effervescence stand up to robust fall dishes like pork or roasted chicken.