Don’t call it cider! It’s Perry
That’s the issue taken up by the Campaign for Real Ale, a British consumer group that was a huge force in the movement to bring back craft and cask ale, since, according to them, the word cider belongs to apples — and apples alone.
Proper perry traditionally comes from the “perry” pear, a cultivar that isn’t generally grown in Canada, but is common in the United Kingdom. Ahh, but if we make fizzy pear juice out of, say, a Bartlett, do we get to call it cider then?
Well, probably not, but you might score a few points with the Campaign for Real Ale folks if it were a really good one, made with integrity, since the group isn’t merely trying to make a point about nomenclature. Their real beef with “pear cider” is actually that most of the commercial varieties are chock-full of corn syrup and artificial flavours. Big Cider’s over-sweet fake fruit products are doing damage to the reputation of all hard ciders — pear or apple — and tarnishing an entire category descended from a venerable tradition.
But when you get your hands on a really good perry or an artisanal pear cider — something we’re seeing more and more of with the institution of small craft cider houses such as Spirit Tree and Sea Cider on Vancouver Island — it’s a crisp, lip-smacking treat. Sea Cider’s product is, in fact, the real deal, made from legit perry pears. One ardent fan is Simon Ogden, bar manager at Veneto Tapa Bar in Victoria.
“One of the great and often overlooked contributions to the world of adult beverages from the United Kingdom, proper perry is a fresh and clever addition to the product library of the bar,” says Ogden. “Universally appealing and rarely used, adding pear essence to a cocktail is an easy path to delight.”
Ogden explains that the drink he is sharing with us, the Perry Wilding, is essentially a variation on the Champagne Cocktail. The “Perry” part we get. But what about the Wilding?
“True perry,” he explains, “is made from fruit descended from highly acidic wild hybrids, called wildings.”
We’re pretty sure the people running the Campaign for Real Ale would completely approve, too.
1 oz old genever (Bols is the go-to for this, but a big funky gin would work as well, like Stump from Phillips Fermentorium, advises Ogden)
1/2 oz Italian vermouth (Ogden recommends bold and bitter Punt e Mes)
1/4 oz elderflower liqueur (first choice: Giffard Fleur de Sureau Sauvage. Runner-up: St Germain)
Stir ingredients together with ice in a mixing glass, and strain into a chilled flute. Top with perry: Sea Cider makes a brilliant traditionally dry one.