Meet your go-to drink for sweater weather: hard cider.


Hard ciders, light-on-the-alcohol sparklers in wine-sized bottles, are cool, crisp and downright exciting. Their flavor and character can vary widely based on the type of apples used, the soil in which they're grown, and how long the juice was aged. Best of all, great stuff can be had on just about any budget. "You can get a solid cider for $15, or you can get a really great one for around $20," says Dan Pucci, beverage director at the trendy cider-focused NYC restaurant Wassail. New to the cider game? Here are five great bottles to get you started.

Hard Cider Bottles
Credit: Photography by Peter Ardito

1. IF YOU'RE A RED-WINE DRINKER... Manoir du Kinkiz, Cornouaille Cider ($18 for 750 ml) This French cider has an earthy, savory profile, and it pairs perfectly with strong flavors like stinky cheeses or herby potatoes.

2. IF YOU LIKE TART AND CRISP... Eve's Cidery Northern Spy 2015 ($18 for 750 ml) Eve's Cidery, in upstate New York, uses heirloom Northern Spy apples to craft a cider that's sweet and grassy, with hints of juicy plums.

3. IF YOU STILL CRAVE ROSÉ... Eden Imperial 11° Rosé Cider 2015 ($14 for 750 ml) Straight outta Vermont, this sparkling pink cider blends heirloom apples with red currants, giving it a flavor that's both tart and fruity. It's the perfect pick for a festive occasion or a toast.

4. IF YOU HAVE A SWEET TOOTH... Dragon's Head Cider Traditional Cider ($17 for 750 ml) Spicy and slightly butterscotchy, this cider is made with heirloom French and English apples grown in American soil on Vashon Island, just off the coast of Washington State.

5. IF YOU'RE A FAN OF SOUR BEER... Isastegi Sagardo Naturala 2015 ($12 for 750 ml) This funky, sour Basque cider was once a staple of Spanish farm workers. Thankfully, the word got out, and it's now available stateside.

How do ya like them apples?

Bonus: HOW many apples are in one gallon of cider? Rachael's hubby, John, investigates!