Cider is a fall menu staple for many reasons. It’s delicious when steamed and simply topped with a dash of cinnamon or dollop of whipped cream. It’s super versatile. Cider can be a featured ingredient in baked goods, such as apple cider donuts, and a variety of other sippable and edible treats.
It encapsulates the flavors of autumn, and it appeals to all ages. Adding cider to your menu not only builds excitement for the holidays, it’s also a caffeine-free, kid- and afternoon-friendly beverage.
And it gives you something new to promote. With all its potential, there’s every reason to serve cider now, and even year-round.
Anytime an ingredient can do double or triple duty, a café’s bottom line benefits. That was one of the motivations behind the fall seasonal drink at San Diego, California’s Hawthorn Coffee—hot ginger cascara cider. The drink is a combination of hot ginger cascara tea and fresh, house-made apple cider.
Co-owner Dylan Redmond has long been interested in cascara and cider, but he was never able to combine the two. A combo finally came together organically at a team meeting.
“We sat down to talk about cider again, and one of the staff came up with the idea to combine cider with our hot ginger cascara tea. We played with it and decided it was going to be one of our yummy fall drinks,” Redmond says.
The drink is a complex, yet cozy beverage for customers wanting a fall drink with a creative edge. “The cascara has a really nice cherry/tamarind flavor, a good cherry pulse through the apples, and with the spices that we’re using in the apple cider, it all comes together,” Redmond says. “Then we sweeten it with agave because we love that flavor, and it keeps it vegan for
“Chai-der” is another typically off-menu coffeehouse hack, consisting of one-half chai concentrate and one-half apple cider.
The flavor profiles of apple cider and chai complement each other. Chai’s components—cinnamon, clove, and black tea—add depth to fresh apple cider, and when steamed, they become a mug full of fall flavors, with a touch of caffeine.
“Customers love it because they feel like they’re ordering an insider drink, but also because our cider is from a local orchard,” says Caitlin Blevins, brand manager of Coffee Culture and Holderness Coffee Roasters in Corvallis, Oregon. “And our chai—from the Chai Company—adds those traditional fall spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to the cider. It’s a cozy and nostalgic fall drink.”
Chai-der is simple to make. Fill a steaming pitcher halfway with equal parts chai concentrate and apple cider—a little higher than you would with milk, since chai-der doesn’t really foam up. Steam to temp.
FROM CONCENTRATE TO SPARKLING, AND BEYOND
North Chittenden, Vermont’s Mountain Cider started making apple cider concentrate out of necessity. In addition to running a Christmas tree farm, they made fresh apple cider from their orchard and sold cups of hot cider to customers as they shopped. But almost every day they either did not have enough, or they had too much and it went bad. To solve the problem of fresh apple cider’s shelf life, they created an apple cider concentrate and Mountain Cider was born.
Now, the bulk of Mountain Cider’s customers are coffee shops. Most sales orders come during the fall, but according to Will Gormley, president of Mountain Cider, “We’re seeing growth in cider over summer. People are getting more creative with drink recipes.”
It’s one thing to have eager customers waiting in line for their favorite fall drinks, but what do you do when the concentrate you’ve bought is still sitting on your shelves?
Classic Coffee in Glendora, California, solved that problem by creating a hot weather friendly cider beverage: sparkling cider.
Sparkling beverages are a menu staple for cafés, so combining two popular things is a natural. Classic Coffee’s sparkling cider is essentially an apple Italian soda, and customers love it, after they’re encouraged to try it.
“We’ve been serving it seasonally for four years. Customers have to be talked into it a little bit—they’re not used to seeing apple cider featured outside of fall. But once they order it, they’re pleased. It’s surprisingly good, complex, yet refreshing,” says general manager Jonathan Lambert.
To make one, combine cider concentrate with a touch of simple syrup, to emphasize cider’s natural sweetness. Add ice and sparkling water, stir, and serve!
Cider also plays a part in alcoholic beverages. Bourbon, sparkling wine, spiced rum and vodka are all common additions to really get customers into the holiday spirit.
Adding cider to your bar can increase your revenue. Creative cider drinks appeal to all ages, and they provide alternatives for afternoon and evening menus. Off-season options reduce waste, and keep your customers curious and engaged—trendy beverages are a hit on Instagram—throughout the year.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Fresh Cup.