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When beer or wine just won’t do it, the delicious, fruit-based beverage that is hard cider makes a great alternative. From sipping with sweet brunch favorites to enjoying with fried snacks at happy hour, ciders are some of the most versatile drinks out there.
Contrary to popular belief, ciders don’t come in a one-size-fits-all model, either. Whether you prefer something bone dry, semi-sweet or somewhere in between, there’s a cider for every palate. Here are the best hard ciders for year-round sipping. Grab a snack, pop a can and get ready to enjoy.
Best Overall: Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider
Dunkertons' dry cider is hand-crafted from 14 organically-farmed cider apple varieties with varying levels of sweetness. The final result is a crisp, full-bodied, lightly carbonated and dry English cider. For a regionally appropriate pairing, we recommend serving this juice with a hearty dose of fish and chips.
"When we’re talking about hard cider, it’s very similar to what is important to wine," says Holly Berrigan, co-founder of MYSA Natural Wine. "The quality of the fruit, especially when you are making it organically, is crucial." After that, Berrigan notes that it’s all about the cider makers' decisions on approaching fermentations and ensuring that appropriate levels of sugar and alcohol are met.
Best Dry: Golden State Mighty Dry Cider
This bone dry cider is produced from 100 percent fresh-pressed apples in the heart of Sonoma. Almost Champagne-like, this juice is perfect for drinking at any time of day. Golden State Cider adds apple juice to this cider, bringing weight and succulence to the beverage. Serve with weekend brunch favorites, salty tortilla chips or tempura-fried veggies for a unique pairing.
Read Next: The Best Beers
Best Sweet: Downeast Original Blend Cider
Don’t let this cider’s cloudy appearance fool you—this stuff is mean, clean and totally refreshing. Produced in Boston, Downeast Original Blend is loaded with flavors of baked apples, apple skin and sweet earth spice. The cider is crafted from five full apples and is canned unfined and unfiltered—this keeps the juice cloudy, but also adds a mouth-coating density to the palate.
"I absolutely love sparkling hard cider as an alternative during the holidays for appetizers," says Berrigan. "It’s low ABV, which is great when you’re headed into a big meal, and it's typically light and fresh on the palate."
For sweet pairings, Berrigan recommends sipping cider with pancakes at brunch or fruit-based desserts after dinner. And for a savory kick? "Asian food crushes with hard ciders because of the low ABV and touch of residual sugar," she says.
Best Rosé Cider: Wölffer No. 139 Dry Rosé Cider
This iconic rosé cider is produced in New York’s South Fork region (Bridgehampton, specifically). The pink-hued version of Wölffer’s cider is slightly sweeter than the white bottling, as a small amount of red grape skin extract is added (fitting, as Wölffer is best known for its still wine production). Serve with fried appetizers or a hearty cheese board for a stunning happy hour at home.
Read Next: The Best Rosé Wines
Best Pear Cider: Rekorderlig Pear Cider
This tart and tasty pear cider is produced in Sweden from 100 percent European pears. The resulting drink is refreshing, palate-coating and downright delicious. Sip with seasonal salads or slightly spicy takeout favorites. Note that Rekorderlig also produces other fruit-based ciders, including Strawberry Lime, Passionfruit and Mango Raspberry.
Best Craft: Brooklyn Cider Kinda Dry
This award-winning off-dry cider is the best of both worlds. Tangy apple flavors, bubbles and slight sweetness beautifully collide to create this ultra-refreshing sipper. Brooklyn Cider's Kinda Dry is produced from freshly harvested apples and mostly wild yeasts (with some white wine yeasts) that vinify together in tanks for two to 18 months. Low intervention, high acid and all-around deliciousness? Count us in.
Best Low-Sugar: Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
This bright and balanced cider is produced in the U.K. and boasts just 9 grams of sugar. Refreshing, festive and certified organic, Samuel Smith’s Cider is perfect for sipping after a long day at work or at the park on a sunny weekend. Enjoy this bottle with a variety of snacks, from potato chips to popcorn to dried apple chips.
Read Next: The Best Nonalcoholic Beers
Most Accessible: Angry Orchard Hard Cider
Whether at your local grocery store or corner bar, one thing’s for sure—a six-pack (or hefty pour) of Angry Orchard is most likely to be found. Produced in Walden, N.Y., this cider is like biting into a freshly picked apple: it’s crisp, vibrant, and it keeps your palate salivating for more. Sip with aged gouda, brie or sharp cheddar cheeses.
"Cheese plates are great [with cider], especially the soft ones like brie," says Berrigan. "A curveball [pairing] would be a jalapeño popper plate."
Best Spiced Cider: Austin Eastciders Spiced Cider
Nothing screams fall like a delicious hard spiced cider. Produced in the heart of Texas, Austin Eastciders' seasonal cider is made from European bittersweet apples, American dessert apples and a seven-spice mixture. Savory flavors of cinnamon, crisp apple and allspice dominate this delicious drink’s palate. Serve with Indian takeout favorites, roasted root veggies or carrot cake for a delectable pairing.
Best Basque Cider: Mayador Sidra Natural
Basque ciders are a bit different from American ciders, as they are produced without added sugars or carbonation. These bottles tend to be drier, less fizzy, and are generally bottled unfiltered. This delicious pick from Spain’s Basque region is funky, food-friendly and bone dry. Pair with tortilla españolas, patatas bravas or other Spanish-inspired tapas for a fun happy hour at home.
When it comes to making Spanish sidra, having a deep knowledge of apples is very important. “Once you know the varieties, you have to see the fermentations and each apple is a world,” says Verisimo “Veri” Busto, General Manager at Mayador Sidra Natural. “We look for a good balance of sweetness, acidity and bitterness, [as well as] great aromatic intensity and fruity aromas.” Busto notes that natural ciders pair very well with fish, shellfish, and certain types of cheeses.