Cider is a type of alcoholic beverage that is made by fermenting the juice of apples. Hard cider, in particular, has higher alcohol content than its non-alcoholic counterpart, apple cider.
The alcohol content of hard cider makes it taste slightly bitter and because the sugar has been fermented into alcohol, the acidity, bitterness, and astringency will be much more prominent compared to unfermented apple cider. The nuances and the taste profile depend mostly on the apples, yeast, and fermentation method used.
Commercial ciders vary a lot in their taste. For example, Mercury Hard Cider is dominated by the signature taste of apple, though its aftertaste is dry.
Blake’s Hard Cider is a popular craft cider brand from Michigan that often explores different fruity flavors. Lastly, Cider House Hard Cider specializes in the production of ciders that are balanced and complex.
Hard cider can be made from different types of apples, which can impact its taste. For example, hard cider made from Pink Lady, Jonathan, or Braeburn apples will taste sour, or even slightly bitter.
How do you taste hard cider?
You can make it as complicated and “sophisticated” as you like, but it is really just sipping from a glass and noticing the smell and flavors!
When tasting hard cider, it can help to think about wine tasting: you would sniff the wine first, then sip it and chew on the aftertaste. With hard cider, you may also want to swirl it around in your glass or pour a small amount into your mouth and hold it there for a few seconds before swallowing.
But you do not want to swirl it enough for the gas to come out. If the cider is carbonated at all, that is!
Cider is traditionally tasted by first smell, then by taking a small sip and allowing it to roll around the mouth before swallowing. The taster should look for balance, flavors, and aftertaste. A good cider will have a pleasing aroma, a well-rounded flavor with no off-notes, and a smooth finish.
It is also important to consider the temperature. Cider will be most balanced and flavorful when it is served slightly colder than at room temperature. If you plan to drink it cold, let it sit in your mouth a bit before you spit it out or swallow it to let the temperature rise and the flavors will come out.
One final note: as with wine, you should always pour a small amount of cider out to start. This step is called “checking the dregs.” It allows you to make sure there is no sediment in the bottle that could affect the taste of your cider.
Does hard cider taste like apple cider?
Apple cider is the non-alcoholic version of hard cider, so it stands to reason that they both have a similar taste.
However, though the underlying taste of apples is present in hard cider, its alcoholic properties give it a sharper flavour, and it may not be as inherently fruity as apple cider, which is produced by pressing apples to extract their juice.
Both hard cider and apple cider are refreshing drinks, especially when chilled, and the alcohol in hard cider doesn’t completely overpower its base fruitiness.
Hard cider usually has an alcoholic content of between 3% and 8.5%, so it definitely isn’t the hardest of hard drinks, but it gives a slightly bitter taste that does not exist in plain apple cider.
Hard cider also often contains carbon dioxide bubbles, it is “fizzy” which makes it taste more sour as well.
It is also worth mentioning that hard cider can also be made by fermenting other fruits, including berries and pears, so apple cider will taste very different from those flavors of hard cider.
Does hard cider taste like beer?
Hard cider and beer are often referred to as being similar drinks, but they both have very different distinctive flavors.
Beer is made by brewing and fermenting yeast, water, malted grains, and hops, whereas hard cider is produced when the juice of a fruit, most commonly apple juice, is fermented.
The fermentation processes of both beer and cider are very similar, but the very different ingredients used respectively give each drink a unique, signature taste.
Beer has a naturally malty, slightly bready taste, which is distinguishable from the more acidic, tangy flavor of cider.
The use of fruit in cider fermentation is what truly sets the two apart because there is no mistaking its emphasized sweetness when compared with beer. Where beer is earthy, cider has more of a bite, so the two are definitely different types of drink, just based on their tastes alone.
Does hard cider taste sour?
Hard cider does have a slightly astringent taste, so you’ll definitely be able to distinguish it from non-alcoholic apple cider!
The fermentation of apple juice during the production process is what causes this because many cider apples are quite tart fruits with a taste that is discernibly less sweet than that of fruits like strawberries or pineapple.
If you are interested in the aromatic compounds that make cider taste and smell, check out my article on that topic, and I devoted an entire post to the bitterness of cider here.
The type of apple used in the fermentation process can also impact how sour the cider tastes. For example, hard cider made from Pink Lady, Jonathan, or Braeburn apples will taste sour, or even slightly bitter.
By contrast, hard cider made from Golden Delicious, Gala, or Cortland apples tend to be sweeter. Some people prefer a sweet, fruity cider, whereas others like the sour bite of a more acidic blend, so there is a cider to cater to everyone’s preferences.
What do different commercial ciders taste like?
There are many different brands of ciders stemming from different breweries and traditions.
To generalize, you can say that they come in three different “flavors” of either the English cider tradition, the French tradition, or a more modern fusion approach that mixes and matches tastes more freely.
I’ll go through one of each from Angry Orchards, Mercury Cider, and Blake’s Hard Cider, respectively.
Within each brand, there is of course also a lot of flavor variation depending on the apples used and the different additives and processes used.
What does Angry Orchard Cider taste like?
Most Angry Orchard Ciders are incredibly fresh, with a discernible apple flavor. It balances the sweetness of the fruit with the dryness that is traditionally associated with hard cider, which is why it is one of the most popular hard cider brands.
For example, a classic Angry Orchard cider would be “The Old Fashioned”, which has a light fruity aroma, semi-dry, medium-bodied, low acidity and it is not very bitter or astringent.
Angry Orchard Cider comes in a range of different fruity flavors, so its taste does vary, but the hard apple cider specifically is exactly the refreshing drink that springs to mind when cider is mentioned.
Sometimes, they are aged in oak caskets or made with fruit juices other than apples such as the “Knotty Pear” which they produce with a pinch of cardamom.
There are of course many varieties within a large brand like Angry Orchard, but they do follow the old English cider traditions of fairly dry full-bodied ciders, but they also make Perry and mixed ciders.
What does Blake’s Hard Cider taste like?
Blake’s Hard cider has a variety of ciders that are often quite exploratory in terms of taste and fruit use and they have stepped away from the classical cider traditions.
They serve most of their ciders on cans and aim for the younger segment, making it one of the sweeter brands of cider.
However, it is still tart and crisp, with additional flavours including cinnamon, strawberry and caramel, both of which offer a contrasting sweetness to the acidity and tartness of the apple.
Blake’s Hard Cider is a popular craft cider brand from Michigan, so the brand is constantly experimenting with new flavours. It is perfect for summer because it is so refreshing and crisp.
What does Mercury Hard Cider taste like?
Mercury Hard Cider is dominated by the signature taste of apple, though its aftertaste is definitively dry. It is what might be described as a “classic” cider: distinguishably apple-flavoured, fresh, and with a lasting aftertaste.
It is perhaps the most popular cider brand of Australia/Tasmania, which it lives up to with its more than a hundred years of experience and inspiration from the French cider traditions.
Sometimes, the apple flavoring in hard cider can taste artificial, but Mercury Hard Cider tastes like fresh apples, complemented by an alcoholic edge.
It is smooth to drink because of its refreshing apple base, but you can definitely tell that it is hard cider, not apple cider.
Mercury ciders also come in variants with passion fruit and raspberry added for a slight extra freshness.
There are many different types of hard cider available on the market, and each one has its own unique taste.
The most important factor in determining the taste of a hard cider is the type of apples used in the fermentation process. Other factors, such as the yeast and fermentation method, will also impact the flavor of a cider.
Commercial ciders often vary greatly in taste, with some brands specializing in sweet, fruity flavors and others focusing on sourer, aged, or acidic fruit blends.