Producers of hard cider, one of the fastest growing alcoholic beverages on the market, toy with all sorts of ingredients besides apples: other fruits, herbs, even hops. One of the more successful flavors we’ve tried recently is the spicy-sweet combo of pepper ciders. Think about it: Mango salsa perfectly marries a juicy fruit with low-key heat—why not apply that balance to cider? We’ve tried two versions: Seattle Cider’s Three Pepper and Blake’s Hard Cider’s El Chavo; we’ll gladly take your recommendations for others.
Why do they work? That balance. A fruity cider benefits from the peppers’ vegetal, green aromas as well as the added complexity of heat and pepper flavor. Seattle Cider’s limited-release Three Pepper cider is almost all fresh-cut bell and jalapeño pepper on the nose; you have to really work to get the fruit underneath. On the sip, though, apple sweetness leads the charge, only transitioning into low-frequency jalapeño heat midway through. Juicy apple keeps the cider in focus, ending in a cohesive, fresh swallow. Blake’s Hard Cider’s El Chavo rests in the mid-sweet part of the cider scale, and hums with a habanero warmth and tropical mango flavors. Either of these ciders ease effortlessly into fall, if we don’t drink them all before then.