As we revel in the bounty of early autumn farmers' markets, we're drinking as much cider as we can—especially the boozy kind. Less sweet than fresh non-alcoholic cider, hard cider is ideal for mixing into cocktails. It's crisp and often effervescent like sparkling wine, making it a no-brainer for variations on loads of classic drinks. It adds a lovely bright acidity to cocktails, too, just like a squeeze of lemon does.
To be honest, I love hard cider in cocktails for practical reasons too: a bottle of cider is cheaper and easier to finish than a bottle of sparkling wine. Here are three drinks that incorporate some widely available hard ciders, the kind you'll find at the supermarket. If you'd like to substitute a cider from your favorite local cidery, keep in mind that you might need to adjust the drink slightly for balance and sweetness.
Fruit-forward without being cloying, this sparkling drink stars pomegranates (the pom) and apples (the pomme). A dry hard cider is the perfect autumnal stand-in for bubbly, and Laird's Apple Brandy lends another layer of rich fall flavor. This drink has all the party cocktail bases covered: it's not too stong, it's really pretty, and it's not too sweet to drink alongside food.
Granny's Navy Grog
A tiki cocktail with as many versions as there are bartenders, the Navy Grog is a more refined version of a drink with roots in the British Royal Navy. Taking a cue from the tiki tradition, this version layers light, un-aged rum with a fuller-bodied aged dark rum. Fresh squeezed grapefruit and lemon juice pull out the tart acidic notes of the cider. Although you might expect that a cocktail with two types of rum would be heavy, this one is surprisingly light, with just enough body and warmth for cool weather sipping.
Sazerac and Cider
As much as it packs a punch, the Sazerac also packs a ton of history. Depending on who you ask, it's "America's first cocktail," one that the city of New Orleans is proud to claim as its own. Nothing in the long history of the Sazerac points to an affinity with hard cider, but flavor-wise, it makes great sense. Apple flavors are a natural partner for a warming spirit like rye, and cider even plays well with the anise and botanicals in absinthe, which can be a bit of an oddball to mix. The cider softens the edges of the Sazerac a bit.