Hard cider is taking over the Big Apple.
Cider Week NYC, which kicks off this Friday and runs through Nov. 15, celebrates the alcoholic beverage, which is made from apples as well as pears, with tastings, dinners, panels and more scheduled at venues across the city and Jersey City.
A popular drink during Pilgrim times, cider was hit hard by Prohibition, when many cider apple trees were destroyed. In recent years, however, the drink has seen a revival, as cider makers have begun growing cider apples and brewing the beverage. It's now the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage, up more than 75.4% last year, according to market research firm IRI.
Since 2011, Cider Week NYC has drawn attention to the industry and its makers, many of which are based in the Hudson Valley region.
"The popularity of cider has grown tremendously," said Sara Grady, vice president of programming for Glynwood, a nonprofit in Cold Spring, New York, that founded Cider Week NYC. "Interest in locally-made, farm-related food and beverage is in the zeitgeist [and] it's increasingly part of our culture to take a lot of interest in foods that connect us to the maker."
This year's festival features 20 regional farm-made and craft ciders, including New York City's own Descendant Cider.
Based in Ridgewood, Queens, Descendant is the city's first cidery, producing small-batch ciders made from apples sourced from farms across the state. It currently has three on the market -- including its most popular, Pom Pomme, made with pomegranate, apple and hibiscus -- which can be found at craft beer bars, cheese stores and, as of last month, select Whole Foods. It is launching a fourth, a barrel-aged apple-pear blend called PAIR, on Friday at 61 Local in Brooklyn as part of Cider Week.
"Cider is a great thing -- it's an agricultural product. People connect to that whole movement of small-batch, farmers market," said Jahil Maplestone, who founded Descendant with his wife, Alexandria Fisk, a year ago after first brewing cider at their Cobble Hill home and taking a course in cider making at Washington State University. "One of the biggest reasons we wanted to start it was we wanted to have a place in the city where people can see it made."
Business has been so good that Maplestone is already looking for a larger space, where he can increase production as well as open a tasting room. They also recently bought land in Sullivan County to grow their own apples.
"The movement is snowballing every year," Maplestone said. "It's now becoming its own entity that people are seeking out."
Husband-and-wife team Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim saw enough interest in cider to open the city's first cider bar, Wassail, last year on, coincidentally, Orchard Street. It has more than 100 bottled varieties and 12 ciders on tap, as well as an ambitious food program of cider-friendly dishes.
"There's not a lot of places where you can experience the range of what cider can be and is," Lim said. "People have a bunch of misconceptions about cider. Our goal is to blow apart those expectations."
One such misconception is that cider is only sweet, Lim said, which mainstream ciders like Magners tend to be. "Cider is very versatile," she said. "It blows your mind how different they taste from each other."
Through Cider Week, the cider curious can get a taste of that versatility, Grady said. "Cider Week is the best chance to taste ciders from all over New York and beyond and discover this incredible range and diversity that's available."
CIDER WEEK NYC HIGHLIGHTS
There are dozens of events across the city happening during Cider Week NYC. Here are a few of the highlights:
Lunch Prix Fixe at Murray's Cheese Bar
Nov. 6-15 on Tues., Wed., Thurs. and Fri., noon-3 p.m., $35; 264 Bleecker St.
With this special lunch offer, enjoy three cheeses paired with three ciders, as well as a choice of entrée and apple caramel cider ice cream for dessert.
Descendant Cider Anniversary Party and Cider Launch
Nov. 6, 7 p.m.; 61 Local, 61 Bergen St., Cobble Hill
Celebrate the one-year anniversary of Descendant Cider, the first cidery in NYC, as well as the launch of PAIR, a barrel-aged, limited-reserve apple-pear blend.
Cider Chats: Women in Cider
Nov. 7, 3-4 p.m., $25; Wassail, 162 Orchard St.
Hear from three women at the forefront of the cider movement -- Louisa Spencer (Farnum Hill), Autumn Stoscheck (Eve’s Cidery) and Diane Flynt (Foggy Ridge) -- as well as sample ciders from each.
Lower East Cider Festival
Nov. 8, noon-4 p.m., FREE; Orchard Street between East Houston and Delancey streets
At this three-block-long farmers market and harvest festival, sample ciders, purchase cider-friendly dishes from restaurants including Wassail, Mission Cantina and Northern Spy, press your own cider, listen to live music and more.
Nov. 11, 6-8 p.m., $55; Astor Center, 399 Lafayette St.
This tasting will feature more than 40 different pours of hard cider and apple spirits from across the globe, as well as serve fall foods and pairings.
Cider Dinner with Farnum Hill and Eden Ice
Nov. 12, 6 p.m., $65; Marlow and Sons, 81 Broadway, Williamsburg
This four-course dinner will feature ciders from Eden and Farnum Hill paired with dishes from Marlow’s. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cider Salon at Jimmy's No. 43
Nov. 14, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., $15 in advance, $20 at the door; 43 E. Seventh St.
Sample ciders and cider-friendly foods and hear from cider specialists at this daylong affair.
3 CIDERS TO KNOW
New to hard cider? If you don't know where to start, Jennifer Lim, co-owner of NYC cider bar Wassail, offers her picks based on preference.
Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider
"For someone who likes the sweet stuff, Hudson Valley Scrumpy is one of our biggest sellers," Lim says. "I'd suggest that to someone looking for something appley."
"For someone who’s looking for something beer-like, I would suggest Millstone, which is out of Maryland," Lim says. "They have a very complex process in which they make their cider, which goes more toward sour beers."
"For someone who's sort of a wine drinker, Farnum Hill is ... lightly sparkling and has just a touch of sweetness in some cases," Lim says. "That's a good entry point."