Cocktails for cider lovers

Australia is in the midst of a cider boom, but if you've visited a bottle shop recently you wouldn't need me to tell you that.

Our consumption of cider tripled in the past five years according to a recent Roy Morgan poll, and fridges once crammed with domestic beer brands have given way to cider from Sweden, Ireland, Spain and the UK - and there is a plethora of home grown brands to boot.

The exact reasons behind drinkers making the move to alcoholic apple juice are hard to pinpoint – perhaps we're just a little fatigued by the glut of wine and beer choices now available. Whatever the case, cider is now a staple bar offering and mixologists have even started to turn their hand at mixing with this flavoursome apple ale.

Sebastian Raeburn, the cocktail aficionado behind the drinks program at Melbourne's Lui Bar on the 55th floor of Rialto Towers, says that the mixologists' interest in mixing with cider is no new phenomenon.

"In America they've been mixing with cider since the mid-1700s," said Raeburn. "Drinks that would eventually become the Stone Fence (see below) started off as a way to make cider last longer. It wasn't until this survival technology reached the cities that barkeeps started exploring with flavours.

"The beauty of mixing with cider is that it adds another set of flavours to the bartenders' arsenal. Cider contains different acids from citrus fruits with most ciders undergo at least a little malolactic fermentation. So you get malic, latic and tartaric acids that you don't get elsewhere."

The chemistry lesson aside, Reaburn said that the fruity flavour profile of cider was a natural partner to cocktails. Try adding a splash to the ever popular Apple Martini or throw a dash in an Applejack Sour (applejack is an American apple brandy).

Stone Fence

Since the mid 1700s the citizens of soon to be formed United Sates of American were slugging spirits into their tankards of hard cider. It was an excellent way to fortify the summer's hard cider for the cold of winter. This little mix is popular amongst bartenders today and goes by the handle of the Stone Fence. The name alludes to how you might feel should you run into too many of these.

60ml of brandy, applejack, rye, bourbon or scotch whisky
Cider (something full flavoured and dry like the English Stowford Press, or Spanish Escanciador)

Method: Add your chosen spirit to a pint glass. Fill with ice and top with cider.

Devil's Bang

Sebastian Raeburn suggests this devilish mix which is a take on a beverage from the late 18th Century called a Whiskey Bang which combined the robust flavours of scotch and honey with cider.

30ml vodka (Sebastian uses 666 Pure Tasmanian Vodka)
15ml vanilla syrup
70ml cider

Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker and give a little whirl to flatten the cider. Add lots of ice and shake briskly. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a little fresh grated nutmeg and cracked black pepper.

Cider House Rules

This next cider concoction, named after the 1985 novel by John Irving, comes courtesy of Natalie Ng from the soon to open Mojo Record Bar on 73 York Street, Sydney.

30ml London dry gin (think Tanqueray or Beefeater)
15ml Campari
30ml freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice
10ml honey water (2 parts honey mixed with 1 part hot water)
Topped with dry cider (like Batlow Cider)

Method: Add first four ingredients into a shaker. Add ice and shake briskly. Strain into an old fashioned champagne saucer and top with cider.

What's your favourite way to enjoy cider?