This cider cocktail proves we can be more ambitious with cider

By / Wine + Drinks / November 9th, 2018 / 6
Kaitlyn Stewart cider cocktail

Cider usually comes one of three ways: Straight up, on the rocks or mulled.

None of these exactly require an advanced degree in mixology and even the most complicated of the three, hot apple cider, is pretty foolproof. Simply spike it with booze and use restraint with the baking spice.

But can we be more ambitious with cider? Does it have some untapped potential as a craft cocktail ingredient? We did a little research and discovered several bartenders dabbling in cider, including Vancouver’s Kaitlyn Stewart, who won Diageo’s World Class cocktail competition in 2017. And, yes, we’ll admit that asking the best bartender in the world for help with an ingredient as simple as cider sounded like overkill, but once we learned how passionate she was about her original cider creations at Royal Dinette, where she still tends bar, we knew we had the right person.

“I really don’t like the taste of beer, so all I drink is cider,” says Stewart, adding that, generally speaking, she thinks it’s underrated and under appreciated. “The first thing I do when I travel somewhere new is check out the local cider options. I’d like more people drink more delicious cider and respect the tradition a little better.”

By that, she’s referring to dry ciders, especially those that still retain some of the sourness of the cider apple — a tannic, high-sugar apple traditionally used in fermentation. Many North American cideries just crush and ferment “eater” apples instead, since we have more of them — the reason we have a lot of indifferent, overly-sweet cider in our market. Stewart says she considers herself lucky to be in British Columbia, where there a lot of good local options, including Dominion and Left Field, two of her favourites. She started playing with cider as an ingredient around the time that beer cocktails became a thing, reasoning that her palate would be “off” when she added beer, so she decided to add cider instead.

“It’s super-versatile, especially if you have one of the stinky ones that have a ton of character and you can play a lot of different spirits off of,” says Stewart. “I think of it as another drink lengthener option that I can use instead of ginger beer or soda water. It gives you an opportunity to tweak the flavour profile as well as make a higher-ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktail.”

Or, if you prefer to dial down the alcohol content of your drink, substituting cider for sparkling wine can significantly reduce the ABV of those delicious but dangerous spritzes and Champagne cocktails. The timeless classic French 75, for example — gin (or cognac), lemon and fizz — is said to have been named after a massive field gun from the First World War because it’s nearly as powerful a weapon. Cider lightens up a French 75, giving the drinker a fighting chance.

That said, Stewart’s favourite way to use cider is probably when she adds just a little to a short cocktail, to add a little pop and levity to more potent, spirit-forward cocktails. To that end, she shared the recipe for her signature “Bonita Applebum” cocktail — one of her all-time favourite cider cocktails, which makes seasonal appearances at Royal Dinette.

Bonita Applebum

3/4 oz dark rum
1/2 oz Cinzano Orancio
1/4 oz Amère Sauvage
1/4 oz lemon juice
2 oz Broken Ladder BC cider

Add all ingredients, except the cider, to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. After the shake, strain over ice in a copper mug. Top with cider and garnish with a dehydrated apple.


Christine Sismondo is a National Magazine Award-Winning drinks columnist and the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History as well as America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops.

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