Polishing the Apple: Elevating the cider cocktail beyond a simple bar drink

Photo by Tj Turner

You’ll be forgiven if your conception of cider cocktails until this very moment consisted of snakebites on St. Patrick’s Day or the mulled stuff that Uncle Randy enjoys spiking just a little too much. Before Lars Olsen was tapped to create Minneapolis Cider Company’s new in-house cocktail program, his view of the genre was even dimmer. 

“I would think of bars that don’t have their liquor license,” he laughs, when asked what the term cider cocktails conjures up. 

“I think, in the Midwest especially, cider is fighting in the market as a beer substitute,” Olsen elaborates, “but in terms of what makes a quality cider, and the cost of production, it really is a closer analogue to wine.”

It seemed natural, then, for Olsen to follow that rich vein and create a menu indebted to the largely European tradition of wine cocktails. Olsen’s first invention was a spin on the venerable Cobbler, built on a house-made base spirit they call Royale (rather than sherry). 

The foundation of Olsen’s program is distillation-proof apple brandy (created in collaboration with Dampfwerk Distillery) that’s been blended with three of Minneapolis Cider’s flagship varietals to coax it back down to the 24% ABV mark that the cidery’s license allows for. Royale also features heavily in Minneapolis Cider’s house Old Fashioned, and a pair of alternatingly fruity and spicy French 75 remixes, with cider arriving in place of prosecco. 

The snakebite still has its charms, especially now with a deep roster of delicious craft stouts to choose from. And cider can stand in place of beer or wine in almost any classic mixed drink, like those found at Hodges Bend on University Avenue. There, Milk & Honey Cider’s semi-dry Heirloom cider is used in two ways—in a boilermaker with a shot of herbaceous cordial, and in a dark and spicy Caribbean jerk Michelada.

All Roads Lead To Rum

1½ ounces spiced rum (Far North’s Ålander is a great choice)
1 ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
3–4 ounces of dry sparkling cider (We recommend Number 12 Cider’s Voyage)

Shake rum, simple syrup, and lemon juice with ice and strain into a large wine glass. Top with cider and garnish with a lemon peel.