Sarah Leah Chase
Over the past few November weeks, there have been numerous magazine and newspaper articles espousing wines best suited to pairing with Thanksgiving dinner. Since I personally have difficulty embracing most of the recommendations in these pieces, I like to retreat to safer ground by opting to pour a kid-and-everyone-friendly jug of local, all-American apple cider along with a spectrum of more potent and adult-soothing libations at my Thanksgiving festivities. Usually I give a lot of careful thought to my dinner wine selections, sometimes struggling thematically to stick with American wines but more often than not succumbing to my weakness and love of French wines, especially those from Burgundy. This year, however, I have found good cause to celebrate cider as the aperitif-of-choice to kick off Thanksgiving and subsequent weekend gatherings.
I lament the fact that founding father Benjamin Franklin preached that one should “never praise your cider, horse or bedfellow” because my family and I have found ourselves singing the praises of the Honeycrisp Apple Cider being sold at Bartlett’s Farm along with the sparkling Cisco Cider bottled by the neighboring Nantucket Vineyard/ Cisco Brewers.
The varietal Honeycrisp Apple Cider, a cross between Macoun and Honey Gold apples, comes from an orchard in Berlin, Massachusetts, and is lighter in color and texture than the New England ciders most of us know. I find it so perfectly delicious and crisply refreshing when poured chilled and straight from the jug that I would never dream of heating it, hot buttering it, or adulterating it with mulling spices and other popular cider additives.
The sparkling Cisco Cider has a mild 7.6% alcohol content and could be a bit of an acquired taste for some. I like its Prosecco-like fizz and unusual faint bourbon taste due to a 6-month aging stint in old bourbon barrels. The apples in the Cisco Cider come from a fruit farm in Greenfield, Massachusetts and I have recently taken to pairing a petite flute of the cider with a few slivers of sharp Cheddar cheese to get me in the mood plus provide a magical burst of energy for the many hours of Thanksgiving cooking ahead. More advanced mixologists may want to offer Thanksgiving guests a “Log Cabin” cocktail made by combining 4 ounces of Cisco Cider with 1 ounce of Calvados or brandy and 1 ounce of pure maple syrup. Pour over plenty of ice and garnish by floating a generous squeeze of lemon over the top. Say cheers, give thanks for local bounty, and don’t fret too much over wines from farther away places to follow as accompaniment to the Thanksgiving feast.