The Best Hard Cider to Try This Apple Season, for Beer Drinkers and Beyond
Put down the daiquiri and step away from the rosé. With summer in the rearview, our sipping sights are set on pumpkin beer, hot toddies and the most beloved fall libation of all, hard cider. We taste-tested the goods from 14 cider brands to find the tastiest autumnal picks for every occasion and drinker. Here are the best hard ciders to try this apple season based on value, quality, aesthetics and—most importantly—taste.
14. Downeast Pumpkin Blend
Best to try warm
You’ve probably heard of this Boston cider house by now. While it’s famous for its many seasonal renditions, the pumpkin variety arguably gets the most hype. The unfiltered cider is a blend of apples, pumpkin and chai spices and comes in at 5.1 percent ABV. A can may contain 164 calories, but we care a lot less about that kind of thing come sweater season. Once you taste it, you’ll understand why. We like to describe it as the perfect 50/50 cross between pumpkin and apple pie fillings. The pumpkin is undeniably present without being overpowering, so there’s still lots of juicy apple flavor to savor. The spices have a nice drying effect on the mouth and make this drink a great companion for fall foods like apple-cider doughnut holes. Be sure to take a nice, long whiff when you first crack the can; you’ll want to fire up the stove and sip it from a mug topped with all the whipped cream. You'll only need to give it a few minutes on the stove (it would take way longer to cook off all traces of alcohol, BTW) or in the microwave to bring its spiced pumpkin and apple flavors to life. Pro tip: Before you crack it, turn the can over, shake it and hold it upside-down for 10 seconds so all the fruit sediment is evenly distributed.
13. Rekorderlig Passionfruit Swedish Hard Cider
Best for cider lovers craving something different
Never heard of Swedish hard cider? It’s made with a blend of fruit and spring water, resulting in a bev containing about 70 percent less sugar than other ciders. Each can contains 110 calories and is totally gluten free. It’s a light sipper with a 4.5 percent ABV and comes in the cutest stout can (it holds 11.2 ounces instead of the typical 12). The first thing you’ll notice about the passionfruit number is that it smells incredible, like mango sorbet (Senior Editor Cristina Gutierrez says it tastes pretty similar to the mango raspberry variety) or a tropical cocktail. Once you take a sip, the apple flavor takes a backseat to silky, fleshy passionfruit. The carbonation is super light and TBH, it doesn’t even really taste like you’re drinking alcohol (or cider as we know it), which is definitely a plus for some of us. Rekorderlig suggests serving it over ice with a squeeze of lime, but we think it tastes pretty darn good on its own.
12. Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie
Best for special occasions
Some events just call for popping a cork. And nothing says fancy like a cider from a French estate that’s been in production since the 19th century. Not only do the ciders come corked, but they also have vintages, just like fine wine. Better yet, they can be aged and become more complex over time like wine, too. (Though if you don’t want to age it yourself, spring for the Cidre Reserve, aged in oak for 6 months. If you’re after a higher ABV, go for the 8.5-percent Cidre Triple, a triple-fermented cider made from bitter apples the same way dark, age-worthy beers are made.) Cidre bouche, literally meaning “cider under cork,” refers to a traditional style of fruit-forward cider. The unpasteurized, 5.5 percent ABV drink is made with bittersweet and acidic apples and French yeasts. The aroma is tannic and wine-like with notes of apple and pear; you can literally smell that it’s not an American-style cider. It’s like a gorgeously refreshing wine with a dose of apple pie filling. Serve it as an aperitif or with cheese, chicken or pork.
11. Abandoned Hard Cider
Favorite regional cidery
This Woodstock gem got its name because the foundation of all its ciders is crowdsourced apples from abandoned, wild orchards. The can designs are super helpful since they’re complete with flavor notes, which can come in handy when you’re not sure what to take home with you from the liquor store. Of the three varieties we tried, we couldn’t pick just one to share. Our favorite was Hopped, an heirloom apple blend that’s dry-hopped on whole cone Cascade hops, one of the most common American hops found in craft IPAs. It’s our top pick for beer lovers because it gives the cider a floral, citrusy profile (it smells like beer!) and just the right amount of bitterness in flavor, the ideal match for sweet, juicy apple. The Classic is a crisp, refreshing blend of wild and heirloom apples with a rustic, caramel-y profile, and the Barrel-Aged variety is made with the same fruit blend, but is aged in oak barrels for a luxurious mouthfeel and vanilla and butterscotch notes, which will appeal to the whiskey drinkers in your life. Here’s the catch: Abandoned is currently only distributed in California, Maryland, Washington D.C. and New York. So, it may be tough to find one at your local liquor store, but they’re also available online for shipping to most U.S. states at select retailers. You might also just get lucky when perusing your local liquor store. Or there’s always option to take a road trip to the tasting room.
10. Crispin Original Hard Cider
Best for first-timers
If you’re looking for something crisp, clean and straight-up apple-y, this bottled beauty won’t disappoint. Crispin, a cider company based in California, uses apples from the Pacific northwest in their unpasteurized beverages. It’s crushable with a typical 5 percent ABV and is made from cold-fermented, fresh-pressed pear and apple juices. The wine yeast gives the cider a smell similar to a bright, zesty Pinot Grigio, only with the added bonus of a distinct sweetness thanks to the fruit. Take a sip for a juicy burst of flavor (think grown-up apple juice) complemented by light carbonation. Find a bottle near you by using the online locator.
9. Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
Best sweet cider
This popular brand from Walden, New York has been dominating the cider scene for years now. And it’s no mystery why. For those seeking a juicy cider that tastes like the alcohol-free kind you sipped on hayrides as a kid, you can’t go wrong with Angry Orchard. It’s made with bittersweet apples for balance, but it’s actually sweeter than most of the plain hard apple ciders on this list. That doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the crispness department, however. Each bottle is 5 percent ABV, so you can drink a few on Thanksgiving while keeping your composure with the relatives (hopefully). We thought the Rosé cider, made with rare French red-flesh apples, was just as tasty. It’s a little more floral and wine-like, thanks to subtle tannic qualities, and smells like a carnival candy apple.
8. Redd’s Wicked Apple
Best booze for your buck
Most hard ciders fall in the 4 to 6 percent ABV range. Redd’s Wicked, which technically isn’t a cider at all, is a high-ABV version of Redd’s Apple Ale and clocks in at 8 percent ABV. What’s the difference between a hard cider and an ale, you ask? Ciders get their alcohol from fermented apple juice, while ales are made from fermented and malted grain. It smells like acidic pre-sliced apples that you buy at the supermarket, the kind spritzed with lemon or citric acid to keep from browning. That acidity melts away once you take a sip; it’s fruity, silky and round with a malty, sweet backbone. Odds are you’ll find Wicked in tall boys (that means 24-ounce cans) at your local liquor store.
7. Seattle Cider Basil Mint Hard Cider
Best for adventurous drinkers
Exciting things are happening at Seattle’s first cidery since Prohibition. The libations are both wine- and beer-inspired, being that they defy cider’s traditional sweet profile and are produced in small batches. All of its unique flavors are made with fresh-pressed Washington apples, a special strain of white wine yeast and pure cane sugar, and they’re all worth a shot. Our favorite was the Basil Mint, fermented with fresh basil and mint leaves. It smells vegetal, minty and slightly citrusy, kind of like a mojito. On the tongue, it’s savory, floral and oh so clean. We also loved the tart, complex Marionberry, which is the most popular blackberry variety in the northwest. Their sweetness rounds out the cider’s flavor beautifully. The Pineapple Agave is great for those who love tropical cocktails (it smells like a Dole fruit cup, guys) and the Tangerine Turmeric, which is off-dry, citrusy and pleasantly bitter, is our pick for those who love Citra-hopped IPAs. If you prefer your cider really bubbly or are looking for something low-calorie to drink, try the Sparkling Meyer Lemon or Blood Orange. They only contain 2 grams of sugar and 94 calories per can. According to the website, Seattle Cider is available in select stores and for shipping to most U.S. states.
6. Collective Arts Nature of Things Unfiltered Apple Cider
Best for white wine lovers
Canadian Collective Arts Brewing is beloved for its diverse craft beers, canned cocktails, spirits and ciders, as well as its mission to support emerging artists and musicians. (Hence the pretty can artwork.) This 6-percenter is gluten-free (like most hard ciders) and made from Ontario apples. This flagship unfiltered dry cider is super clean, slightly hazy and crisp on the nose, similar to a light Sauvignon Blanc. It dries your mouth like one, too. You may have a tough time getting it delivered to your doorstep if you’re not in Canada, but Collective Arts libations can be found in select liquor stores and craft beer joints around the northeast. New Yorkers can order Collective Arts products on TapRm while other states can try their luck on Drizly.
5. Doc’s Draft Hard Pumpkin Cider
Best pumpkin cider
If you wait all summer long for PSL season, this one’s for you. Doc’s lineup of 10 Hudson Valley ciders (Peach! Sour cherry! Black currant!) are all worth exploring, but you’ll be hard pressed to find another pumpkin cider this flawless. In fact, Doc’s won a blind taste-off against 22 other pumpkin beers and ciders in 2013—and after a sip, you’ll understand why. The pumpkin cider is made from New York apples, roasted pumpkins, cinnamon, allspice, fresh ginger and nutmeg. Brace yourself for the overwhelmingly uncanny scent of homemade pumpkin pie when you pop the top. The apples offer brightness to warm-and-cozy spices and nutty, sweet pumpkin. It seems like the roasting really pays off. Find Doc’s near you on TapHunter. You’d better act fast: It’s only available through mid-October.
4. Woodchuck Sangria Hard Cider
Best for red wine lovers
Woodchuck has been slinging cider since 1991, long before hard cider became commonplace at liquor stores and bars. Now, they’re best known for crafting innovative ciders that push the boundaries of the very culture they helped create. The Pearsecco, a dry pear-apple cider—inspired by sparkling wine—is super crisp, light and fruity, plus touts an unexpected 6.1 percent ABV. Another favorite of ours was the Granny Smith, which tastes just like the tart-sweet apples it’s made from (P.S., it smells like a green Jolly Rancher). But the sangria truly wowed us. It smells like plump red berries or Concord grape juice. It tastes just like sangria but with a softer mouthfeel—none of the tannins or dryness of red wine. The subtle citrus notes also come through. What’s equally cool is that this Vermont cidery helps the environment by recycling waste, cutting their water usage in half, using green cleaning products and using mostly recycled glass and renewable energy to produce their products. Use the online locator to find a restaurant or store carrying Woodchuck near you.
3. Original Sin Black Widow
Best for fruit lovers (and for sipping on Halloween)
Original Sin has been making old-school cider with modern flair since 1996. The brand not only has various flavored ciders (Pineapple Haze, made with pineapple juice, is tart, juicy, sweet and smells just like it’s freshly cut namesake), but experiments with different types of apples. The Fuji smells incredibly fresh and goes down bubbly and easily. The McIntosh is aromatic, rich and wine-like. But Black Widow, a 6 percent ABV cider made from blackberries, New York apples and champagne yeast, won our hearts. You’ll smell the berries the moment you crack open the can. Take its pretty purple-red hue as an omen for a deliciously jammy punch of blackberries’ signature tart sweetness. (P.S., the spider design is destined for your Halloween party.)
2. Citizen Cider The Dirty Mayor
Meet the Burlington cidery and hard seltzer hub that’s the brainchild of a wine salesman, chemist and small farmer. The apples are all locally sourced from Vermont and New York. When we tried the Wit’s Up, a 6.2-percent session cider, we loved its dryness and wine-like qualities. But in the end, we found it a little effervescent and thin for our taste (though we will say it’s a prime pick for September nights that are still warm enough for alfresco hanging). But wow, were we blown away by The Dirty Mayor, a 5.2-percent ginger-infused cider. It’ll cost you 210 calories a can, but we urge you to get over it in the spirit of fall. It smells like fresh-cut ginger that cuts through your sinuses like a knife; it’ll tickle your nostrils at first sip in the best way (seriously, trust us). The ginger flavor is strong without being overly spicy, but it’s enough to warm the back of your throat much like the raw root itself. Order on TapRm if you’re in New York. If not, nearly 40 U.S. states can order Citizen Cider from their website. No luck? Try the Cider Finder.
1. Starcut Ciders Mosa
Best for autumn brunch
Hailing from northern Michigan, this fermented apple cider, blended with orange juice, is just the beverage for your lazy Sunday breakfast table. At first sniff, we were reminded of a really weak screwdriver, like OJ with a lil’ something-something behind it. The juice’s citrusy flavor feels a little overpowering up against crisp apple, but it doesn’t make the drink any less tasty. In fact, we’d argue that the combo of the cider’s carbonation and its yeasty cider notes make it taste pretty darn close to a real-deal manmosa, only with apple cider instead of beer. If you’re in Michigan, you may be able to order some straight from the Starcut website. If you’re elsewhere, use the site’s cider locator to find some near you.