How To Create The Ultimate Cider Tasting Just Like An Expert

Hard cider is an enigmatic member of the alcohol family. We drink it like a beer but we think of it almost as a wine. This unusual limbo state that hard cider exists in can make it difficult to know how to incorporate it into our drinking traditions. An alcohol tasting is a great way to explore all of the great drinks available to us, but a cider tasting doesn't necessarily work the same way as a whiskey tasting. To help us understand how to create the ultimate cider tasting, we talked to Peter Yi, co-founder and head cidermaker at Brooklyn Cider House.

"A good selection would include still and sparkling," Yi told us. "As well as dry and off-dry ciders." This makes cider tastings sound a lot more like a wine tasting than anything else. Even the terminology is similar, though the lower alcohol content in cider means you probably don't need to spit it out like you would in a wine tasting (which has its own considerations).

"For a well-rounded tasting, I would recommend trying three sparkling and three still ciders," Yi continued. "Ranging from dry to off-dry and perhaps semi-sweet." The idea is to put together a collection of hard ciders that offer different flavor profiles and nuances that the group can then discuss. "You should try a dry sparkling, dry still, off-dry sparkling and off-dry still cider, plus a semi-sweet one and a pet-nat or methode champenoise sparkling one. Pet-nat and methode champenoise are sparkling wine styles that are now used in cidermaking too."

A cider tasting should embrace variety, not monotony

The important part is to create a range. If all of the ciders are too similar, the tasting could end up becoming monotonous. For example, if you chose six dry sparkling ciders and tasted them side by side, the change in your experience from glass to glass might not differ enough to warrant much comment. The people who like dry ciders will enjoy them, and the people who prefer sweeter ciders will feel another way.

What's left out is the element of surprise. Part of the appeal of a tasting of any kind is discovering something new about what you prefer. The ciders are just a vehicle for this pursuit. By bringing different varieties of cider together you are presenting your palette with new and interesting variations on a theme and then listening to your senses as they convey what they like and don't like.

There are other ways you could create a similar panorama of ciders (like picking ciders made from different apples and comparing them that way), but Yi's choice is a classic format that borrows heavily from the wine tasting world. There are a lot of great hard cider brands out there, so even if you aren't already familiar with what hard ciders are available, there should be plenty to fill your roster no matter how you put together the tasting.