Chances are you've encountered a few bottles and drafts of cider at your local pub—but ever seen it on a wine list? Unlike the candy-sweet hard cider popularized as a gluten-free beer alternative, dry ciders have a versatility and complexity that's more reminiscent of wine. In fact, they've been an American-as-apple-pie tradition ever since the Pilgrims arrived in New England—and many U.S. producers are continuing to produce them in the classic European style, making refined ciders with flavors ranging from crisp and bone-dry to buttery or even tropical.
If you're more of a wine drinker and haven't yet ventured into the world of dry cider, pop open a bottle from one of these American producers and prepare to be converted.
If you like Champagne and sparkling wines: You've got lots of fantastic sparkling ciders to choose from, ranging from the effervescent, Champagne-like Farnum Hill Semi-Dry ($13) to the floral, Prosecco-like notes of Virtue Cider's The Ledbury ($11). Look for common wine terms like brut, dry, semi-dry or demi-sec on sparkling cider labels; just as for sparkling wine, they'll clue you in to the sweetness level.
If you like sweet white wine: Look for ice cider, an almost liqueur-like drink that comes from the sweetly concentrated juice of frozen apples (ice wine is made the same way, but with frozen grapes). Try Eden Ice Cider's Heirloom blend ($15), which hints at the crisp but intense fruitiness of Riesling and Gewurztraminer wines.
If you like dry white wine: Seek out still ciders like Albee Hill ($11) from Eve's Cidery, or Night Pasture ($14) from Slyboro Ciderhouse. The "still" designation means the cider contains no carbonation, and this type has a mineral-forward, tart and grassy flavor profile that makes it more akin to Sauvignon Blanc than to apple juice.
If you like rosé: Wolffer Estate Vineyard's No. 139 Dry Rosé Cider ($4) blends cider from apples picked locally in New York's Hamptons area with a splash of wine—to make a refreshing, easy-drinking, bubbly beverage. Even better: It comes in a four-pack of 12-oz. bottles for picnics, tailgates and parties on the go.
If you like craft beers: Dry ciders fermented with wild or Belgian yeasts and hops impart a range of beer-like notes, from pine and citrus to funky undertones to floral and tropical flavors. In New York, Nine Pin Cider Works' Belgian cider ($10) uses abbey ale yeast and is akin to a Tripel. In Oregon, Anthem Hops cider ($7) is fermented with Cascade hops for the floral nose of an IPA.