Despite its reputation, cider is good for more than just a sesh.
Fruity, crisp and refreshing, cider is the drink of choice for many – especially during summer.
Yet somehow, thanks at least in part to the likes of brands like White Lightning and Scrumpy Jacks, cider isn’t exactly something you’d think of as a pairing for a fancy meal.
But justice for cider fans, we say.
If you’re looking to boost your summer spread, here’s a list of tips from Jane Peyton, the UK’s first accredited cider sommelier.
Jane, founder of the School of Booze, has shared what she called her cider matching mantra, the first option of which is about how to coordinate your cider choice with the food.
‘Think about the texture and density of food and match the cider accordingly,’ she explained.
‘For instance, lighter foods with a light-bodied cider or fuller-bodied ciders with a heavier food, such as game.’
You might also want to think about what you’d like to cut the flavours with.
‘Choose cider with either tannins and acidity, or both,’ Jane said, ‘to cut through texture, flavour, richness, and fattiness.’
Similar to the co-ordinating step, you’ll want to pick a cider which works with your meal rather than against it.
‘Pick a cider that complements the flavours of the food,’ Jane instructed, ‘such as a savoury cider with umami-rich cheese.
‘This can also mean adding in a missing taste profile that would balance it, such as a sweet cider for a dish needing sweetness.’
Some basic cider knowledge from Jane
- Acidity – ‘Fruit acids that give the cider its “tang”, this differs based on the variety of apples used in the recipe. Acidity cuts through texture and the richness of food and cleanses the palate.
- Tannins – ‘Plant-derived compounds that add structure and texture. They register in the mouth as dryness and help to cut through the texture of dense and/or fatty food and refresh the mouth.
- Sweetness – ‘Dependent on the level of fruit sugars in the apple variety and any sweetness added by the producer after fermentation. Sweetness acts as a contrast to savoury and salty food and balances spiciness.
- Carbon Dioxide – ‘Very efficient at cutting through the texture of food, cleansing the palate, as well as a source of acidity.’
Sometimes, the best cider pairing will be the total opposite to what’s on your plate.
‘For example,’ said Jane, ‘a sweet cider with salty food such as anchovy, or a dry cider with something sweet, like a creamy dessert.’
Jane’s tips and tricks
- ‘Match flavour intensity – delicate with delicate, big with big.
- ‘Consider the food’s texture – the lighter the texture, the lighter the cider.
- ‘Match with the main part of the dish – unless the dish has flavoursome sauce, always match with the main component of the dish.
- ‘Alcohol is a flavour enhancer – higher alcohol ciders will intensify flavours in the food and can make them unpleasant, so steer away from high-alcohol ciders when looking to pair with spicy or bitter foods.’
Jane said spicy dishes should go with sweet cider because the sweetness will balance out the intensity.
‘Charcuterie goes with subtlety sweet acidic cider,’ she added, ‘as acidity cuts through the texture and balances the rich meats.
‘Seafood goes with light, acidic cider. Seafood is light in texture and acidic, so needs a complimentary cider.
‘Chicken or turkey with fruity, acidic cider. Being mildly flavoured, the acidity of the cider enhances the flavours of the meat, and the fruitiness is fresh and complementary.
‘Pasta and rice dishes go with acidic cider, as cereal-based foods are acidic so this benefits from a complementary match.’