Virtue Cider | Chicago

How to smell, taste and serve your favorite ciders

"We've all become beer and wine experts, but we're still a little ignorant on cider," says Greg Hall.

Hall is the creative force behind Michigan-based Virtue Cider, one of the brands leading the charge for a cider revival in America.

Virtue has just released its bourbon barrel-aged "Mitten," which was inspired by a French style of cider-making that combines Calvados and fresh apple juice. It blew us away with its nuance and complexity.With two all-cider bars coming to Chicago in 2014, we decided it was time to learn more about the apple-based enigma.

Virtue cider

1) Treat cider more like wine than beer. Put down the pint glass. Cider is made from fruit, uses natural yeast and is stored in barrels. So bust out your white wine glasses instead, and sniff before you quaff.

2) Keep it cold, but not too cold. The ideal temperature for most cider is around 50 degrees.

3) Learn the lingo. Cider doesn't evoke the familiar smells and tastes of wine. "The aroma has to do with the ripeness level of the apples," explains Hall. For example, Virtue's Mitten smells like "ripe" apples–as if you've left a bag out for a week–while the Percheron smells like "overripe" apples fallen to the ground in the orchard.

4) Pair boldly. Cider isn't wimpy. "Spanish cider is the lightest and driest, so people want to drink it with a salad. In Spain, it's paired with blood sausage," Hall explains. He likes to pair Mitten with ridiculously spicy Thai food. "It sounds unnatural, but it works."