The clear golden elixir has been referred to a ‘stylish drink’, a ‘health drink’ and even the ‘perfect gift’ by various aficionados. An ingredient in exotic cocktails and fancy continental dishes, Cider is pure natural perfectly fermented apple juice. The apple base adds vital vitamins and provides a pleasant flavour to this extremely light drink. With just the right amount of sweetness and the inherent mellowness of the fruit, Cider can be “still” or carbonated with low bitterness, high flavour and no aftertaste. Only, make sure you get the right stuff, most commercial and economical brands use sugary apple syrup, true cider is made only from pure natural apple juice, crushed from specially grown ‘cider apples’.
Cider is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks. Originally from the UK, cider is now popular wherever there are apple orchards like in US, New Zealand and Australia; and in our very own Himachal Pradesh too. It is made primarily from the juices of specially grown varieties of apples and pears. Almost all over the world, cider is alcoholic apple juice, except in the US, where plain cider is non-alcoholic apple juice and hard cider is alcoholic.
Apples are crushed in a hydraulic press and then fermented in oak vats using natural or added yeasts to make cider. Like red wine, cider, loaded with antioxidants, is claimed to be good for the heart and has a cooling and purgative effect on the body. But it is important that no-one drinks more than the recommended daily intake of alcohol, which for women is 2 to 3 units per day and for men, 3 to 4 units, an average cider having about 2.5 units per pint.
Handcrafted fine cider is served chilled in flute or pilsner glass – long and tapered to draw attention to the sparkle and slightly curved at sides to trap some of the fine flavour. The drink should be poured from a height, to add the fine fizz, stimulate carbonation and release the aroma.
Hot, spiced, spiked cider on a chilly evening is heavenly to warm the insides. Pour about a gallon of Apple cider into a large sauce pan. Add 10 cloves, 10 cinnamon sticks, 1/4 teaspoon orange rind, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. (Tie the spices in a cloth or use a tea ball). Once the mixture has come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the cider cool down. Now add 750 ml of dark rum. Don’t add alcohol to boiling hot cider or the alcohol content will evaporate. Serve the simmering drink.