hard cider and mead

When you’re out at your local craft beer bar, you might find yourself in a situation with a list of unfamiliar beverage options. From IPA to Tripel, you might be good to go on the beer front, but there’s a new segment of alcoholic beverages on the scene to learn about. With the demand for gluten-free and alternative options on the rise, refreshments like hard cider and mead are taking over the craft scene. But what exactly is mead? Why opt for cider? Read on for more about these unique drinks!

What Is Mead?

honey mead

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Essentially, mead is a wine-like beverage made out of fermented honey and water. Similar to grape wine, mead is higher in alcohol content and has a nuance in flavor profile and sweetness. It is typically lighter in color, closest to pale yellow, and is generally thin in viscosity but with a light bubble. Mead can be brewed with malt, hops, fruits, spices, and other elements to create a unique array of flavors. It is enjoyed in many different forms, but more popular in European countries such as Spain and France. Rooted in history and myth, mead has been around for centuries, dating back to 3000 BC with the early Europeans.

Mead has not yet taken the craft alcohol market by storm, but there are a few cans and bottles consumers can try. Look for brands such as Meridian Hive Meadery (Austin, TX), Schramm’s Mead (Ferndale, MI), and Redstone Meadery (Boulder, CO).

What is Hard Cider?

hard apple cider

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More familiar to the beer-lover’s palate, hard cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apples. Cider is made from fruit so it is similar to a wine, but has more of the bubbly, yeast-like characteristics of beer. Cider is typically amber or gold in color and more often than not, clear and crisp with soft carbonation. It can range from fruit sweet to tangy and tart to brut dry, and aging cider can develop flavors further. Not to be confused with apple cider juice, hard apple cider is fermented for alcoholic content and the fruit sugars in cider can increase the ABV, or alcohol by volume. Cider too has been around for many centuries, but has deeper roots in England during the early half of the 19th century when drinking fermented beverages was safer to drink than water.

Looking to try some award-winning hard cider? Look out for Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend, WA), Arsenal Cider House (Pittsburgh, PA), and Angry Orchard (Walden, NY).

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Mead, Apricot and Almonds

Moroccan chicken with mead, apricots, and almonds

New England

Semi-sweet honeyed mead keeps chicken thighs moist and flavorful in this Moroccan-inspired dish with apricot and almonds. Mead also contributes to a rich sauce that will pair beautifully with pearled couscous. Get the recipe.

Peach and Mead Cake

peach and mead cake

Juls’ Kitchen

In this upside-down style cake, mead is used to cook down the peaches for the topping and then cake batter (with more mead) is layered on top. After baking, this cake flips over into a beautiful peach-topped dessert, sweetened with honey and vanilla. Get the recipe.

Spiced Citrus Honey Hot Toddy

spiced citrus honey hot toddy

This Mama Cooks

Top off the night with a classic seasonal drink, the Hot Toddy. This mead and honey drink is the ideal antidote for a breezy fall night, and comes together in just a few steps with a cinnamon stick garnish and a cozy mug to enjoy it in. Get the recipe.

Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Apple Mostarda

cider braised pork with apple mostarda

Plains Joy

Pork pairs beautifully with hard cider, taking in sweetness from the apples. Combining the classic flavor pairings of grainy mustard, apple cider vinegar, and hard cider, this braised pork is an ideal autumn dinner recipe. Get the recipe.

Chicken Breasts Braised with Hard Cider Bacon and Parsnips

hard cider braised chicken breasts with bacon and parsnips

A Farm Girl’s Dabbles

You can’t get much better than a one-pot meal and this chicken and hard cider dish comes together in one large dutch oven. You can also substitute other root vegetables for the parsnips, such as carrots or hearty potatoes. Get the recipe.

Apple & Cheddar Hard Cider Soup

apple cheddar hard cider soup

No Spoon Necessary

It’s true—hard cider in this soup pairs with salty cheddar cheese and sweet apples for a delicious sweet-and-savory option. Just waiting for a hunk of crusty bread, this soup is a decadent way to celebrate the flavors of fall. Get the recipe.

Rachel Johnson is a millennial food person; she writes about food, all she Instagrams is food, and she just can't stop talking about it. Her first cookbook, "Stupid Good: A Shut Up and Cook Book" was published in 2014, encouraging the merits of fresh, vibrant food and cooking for yourself as a twentysomething. Today, Rachel works as a freelance food writer and photographer specializing in online food media and manages her brand, Stupid Good Food. She lives in Austin with her boyfriend, dog, and full pantry.
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