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5 Festive Ciders to Spice up Your Holidays

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[Photos: Chris Lehault

If you haven't eaten at least two dozen cookies by New Year's Day then you are doing something wrong this holiday season. My family starts baking cookies at the first sign of frost and blanket our table with at least a dozen for each person sleeping off a food coma on the couch.

Along with all that butter, cinnamon, and sugar, it's the time to reach for flavorful, full-bodied ciders. American cider makers have embraced these colder months by releasing ciders packed with cranberries, spices, and a big heaping of holiday cheer. One is even adorned with glitter on the label! So if you are thinking of curling up with a good cider to hibernate for the winter, here are five we recommend.

Ciderboys Mad Bark

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If you are looking for a winter festival in a glass, reach for Ciderboys Mad Bark from Steven's Point, Wisconsin. The holidays are all about excess and this cider delivers with big, decadent flavors of candy apple and cinnamon. Mad Bark is kind of like the cold, carbonated version of mulled apple cider...or the cider equivalent of your crazy neighbor's light display.

J.K. Scrumpy's J.K.'s CuveƩ Winteruption

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While slightly less indulgent than the Mad Bark, this organic Michigan cider from J.K. Scrumpy will still satisfy your sweet tooth. The spicy cinnamon and warming vanilla in J.K.'s CuveƩ Winteruption will hold up to just about any dessert that you throw at it. But it also works surprisingly well with spiced ham and even turkey. Flavors of fresh-pressed apples make this a deceptively drinkable.

Woodchuck Hard Cider Winter Cider

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If you prefer to keep the baking spices on the cookie tray instead of in your glass, the winter offering from Vermont's Woodchuck Hard Cider may be the ideal holiday cider for you. This full-bodied cider is aged in French and America oak to add layers of warm, sweet flavor. Vanilla, toast, and even caramel flavors build upon the green apple-y base. This stuff is awesome with vanilla ice cream... cider floats anyone?

Doc's Draft Cider Cranberry Spice Hard Apple Cider

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A glittery label adorns this festive bottle of cider from New York's Doc's Draft Cider. Unlike the other holiday ciders we tasted, Cranberry Spice was lighter, with more tart notes and just a hint of spice on the finish. The cranberry here is more fresh-from-the-bog than straight-from-the-can with flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and even a bit of mint as well. This is a versatile cider that will complement rich gravies and main dishes as well as caramel-coated treats.

Leprechaun Winter Cider

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Here in New York it was 30° and snowing this afternoon. But in Houston it was 69° and sunny. Perhaps that's why Texas-based Leprechaun Cider make a dry, refreshing winter cider instead of a sweet sipping one. Big on the cranberry, with a touch of plum and apple on the finish, this is a fruit-forward cider that would find favor on our table year 'round. Of course, the seasonal fruits in Winter Cider make this tart cider holiday-appropriate and the lighter body made it one of the most food-friendly of the ciders we tasted.

Will you be hibernating with cider this winter? Share your favorite cold-weather cider below.

About the author: Christopher Lehault is a New Jersey-based cider journalist, craft beer documentarian, and home brewer. Follow his cider adventures on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

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