By Amy Weaver Quan
Maybe you tried cider a decade ago and just didn’t like it. Maybe you liked some, but others didn’t suit your tastes and you weren’t sure why. Maybe it reminded you too much of the sparkling apple juice of your childhood.
Before I moved to the Finger Lakes four years ago, this was me. My husband and I had tried cider a few times, mostly on the west coast, mostly without any clue what we were looking for or how to pick one that we would like. The ciders were either too sweet or strangely metallic. We stayed firmly in the beer and wine camp.
In last month’s Cider Sessions, I profiled Ian and Jackie Merwin of Black Diamond Farm and Cidery. Among the many things I learned that afternoon was the reason I didn’t like cider in the past. My aha moment came when he pointed out what should have been obvious to me long ago—cider comes from the apples available to the cider maker. In most places, this means the super sweet dessert apples that are meant for lunches and pies, but lack the complexity needed for ciders. Or worse, the cider comes from processed apple concentrate.
I asked Stephanie Ania, the tasting room manager at Finger Lakes Cider House at Good Life Farm, how they combat the bad cider vibes that occasionally come their way, even when in the company of cider fans.
“We curate an offering specifically for people new to cider, suggesting specific ciders that have a balanced taste and a wide appeal.” She says they tend to steer folks clear of the funkier, cloudier ciders and towards the “cleaner” and slightly sweeter ones.
The cider makers in the Finger Lakes produce world class ciders; they and their staff are experts too at teaching us about their craft and introducing us to the amazing range of apples that make for wonderful ciders. My best advice, take a break from beer and wine—no disrespect, we love these too—and give cider another try.
We did and fell in love.
In addition to Black Diamond Farm and the Finger Lakes Cider House, nearly all the cideries in our region are open or reopening soon. Here’s a list of a few more of my favorites:
You can also find many local ciders for sale at the Finger Lakes Beverage Center in Ithaca.
Amy Quan lives, writes and drinks cider in Covert, NY. When not outside with her husband planting food and trying to restore the old orchard on their farm land, she teaches writing at Ithaca College.