10 Ciders to Pair with Thanksgiving Dinner
Wine is good, but cider is the unsung hero of the holiday table.
When choosing a beverage to pair with our holiday meals, wine beats cider by a wide margin. Generations of unexceptional cider have led us down this unfortunate path: Until recently, most cider was made clear and fizzy to serve as a sweet alternative beer. But over the past decade, cider revivalists have brought cider back to its complex and often vinous roots: Cider, after all, is produced by fermenting a single fruit like wine, not brewing grains and hops like beer.
And truth be told, though many wines are perfect for pairing with turkey-centric meals—like a Pinot Noir with cranberry notes or a Riesling showing hints of quince—in a broad sense, sophisticated ciders are probably more likely to be a match across the board. Whereas the intense flavors a huge Cabernet Sauvignon can steamroll your turkey, apples and the broad range of notes they express as cider—from tart to tannic to even downright barnyard—are always a perfect rustic complement to the flavors of the season. (Not to mention that cider's lower ABVs aren't as likely to compound your food coma.)
Here are ten ciders I recommend for pairing with your holiday meals, covering a range of styles and flavors. I've selected offerings from cideries across the country, focusing on brands that are sold in multiple markets or can be purchased for delivery online to make them easier to get your hands on. While it doesn't affect taste, these selections are primarily sold in large, wine-style bottles—presentation can make a difference when it comes to changing perceptions. Dress for the job you want, they say.
Angry Orchard Walden Hollow (New York)
Anyone hesitant to dabble in "fancy" cider or worried their guests might reject the idea, start here. Angry Orchard is by far America's largest cider brand—owned by Boston Beer Company, the people behind Sam Adams—so at the very least, you can sip something from this familiar name with the confidence that it isn't an experiment gone wrong. A tart and slightly tannic counterpoint to Angry Orchard's apple-flavor-forward mainstream offerings, this cider produced with New York-grown heirloom apples is a solid introduction to farmhouse styles that can be poured at any time.
Eve's Cidery 2018 Beckhorn Hollow (New York)
Elsewhere in New York, the Finger Lakes region is home to some of America's best cideries—all of which are far smaller than Angry Orchard, and most of which focus strictly on traditional cidermaking methods. Since 2002, Eve's has been tackling a huge variety of these styles. Beckhorn Hollow is a sharp, dry sparkling cider made from about one quarter foraged pears that works as a more quaffable alternative to Champagne.
ANXO Cidre Blanc (Washington, D.C.)
As one of only two canned ciders on this list, you may have some explaining to do while serving Cidre Blanc, but not while drinking it: As the name implies, this cider is fermented with wine yeast, resulting in a drinkable, vinous cider that still offers complex flourishes of acidity and funk—a great rustic alternative to a bright white like Sauvignon Blanc.
Virtue Percheron (Michigan)
Like wine, Percheron is aged in French oak barrels rounding out the edges of this otherwise tart and tannic cider with notes of vanilla, pushed even further by a touch of fresh apple juice to create additional sweetness. As such, Percheron holds up well against heavier meals similar to a barrel-aged white wine.
Tilted Shed 2018 Graviva Semidry Cider (California)
Most high-end ciders gravitate towards dryness, but often, a touch of sweetness can buoy a cider's complexity, especially tannic and barnyard characteristics that might feel unbalanced on their own. Graviva gets its name from Gravenstein apples, a tart variety which makes up half of the fruit bill before coalescing into a drinkable whole—enjoyable as a potential swap for an off-dry white like a Riesling.
Alpenfire 2016 3 Pommes (Washington)
I'm a sucker for ciders with quince—which always seems to add a bright pop. Alpenfire's 3 Pommes blends apples, pears, and quince resulting in a lightly sparkling cider that covers all three of your traditional cider fruit bases and offers the best of each: depth of pears, tannins of cider apples, and tartness of quince—a possible replacement for a wine with tropical or stone fruit notes.
Art + Science 2016 Symbiosis (Oregon)
If you're not fully sold on cider instead of wine, here's a chance to cheat: For its Symbiosis, this incredible Oregon cidery co-ferments foraged apples and Gruner Veltliner grapes to create this 50-50 cider-wine hybrid. The lightly-sparkling, wild-fermented result offers the best of both worlds: the heft of white wine lifted by cider's lighter character.
Shacksbury Rosé (Vermont)
Though not a complete cider-wine hybrid, the exceptional and accessible Vermont cidery Shacksbury uses Syrah and Zinfandel grape skins to help its rosé cider mimic one of the most talked about wine styles on the market. The resulting canned cider is a simple but enjoyable pink wine replacement that comes in at less than half the ABV of your usual rosé.
Meriwether Cider Company Cranberry Crosscut (Idaho)
As a cider purist, I typically steer people away from heavily-fruited ciders because they can detract from the wide range of flavors unadulterated ciders can offer. But Meriwether specializes in a diverse selection of ciders spiked with additional fruit, and if these kind of ciders are your thing, it's easy to see how this Idaho cidery's award-winning Cranberry Crosscut could be a fitting addition to your Thanksgiving meal.
Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider (Vermont)
If you can't be convinced to swap out your favorite dinner wine for cider, at least consider wrapping up your meal with ice cider for dessert. Eden is the king of this sweet and decadent drink reminiscent of ice wine. Flavors like caramel and vanilla coat your tongue, creating a potential liquid replacement for your apple pie. (If you can score the legendary Windfall Orchard Ice Cider from Eden, by all means do, but as of this writing, it's sadly sold out.)
Mike Pomranz is a drinks writer, a Certified Cider Professional, and a regular contributor to Food & Wine.