The Hard Ciders You Should Be Falling For

Some of us happily bob for apples, pick our own bushel at the nearest orchard, or get busy baking our favorite cinnamon spiced apple strudel recipe when a chill hits the air. And then some of us know that 1. All you get when you bob for apples is wet hair on a cold night, 2. There are perfectly fine apples at the store, and 3. You can crack open a tall one and sip your apple strudel in your favorite sweater while barely tending to a cozy campfire with all your friends. And during the most festive, partying-est time of year ... yeah, we want the easy thing. Bottoms up!

Hard cider is as American as drunk apple pie, and it's been a thing ever since the early 1600s in Plymouth Rock. Even kids drank it at the time, because everybody was worried about contaminated water. It survived Prohibition and centuries of meh marketing to rise like a fruit-forward Phoenix as a nearly $18 billion industry in 2023. That's, like, a kajillion apples you guys.

While it's long been a favorite of the gluten-free crowd, hard cider was crafted for all of us. From Thanksgiving-spiced and syrupy sweet, to dry as a desert in July, crisp-pressed apples get brewed into a stellar variety of flavors. Which ones take home the top prize this season? These are the hard ciders you'll totally fall for!

Golden State Cider: Brut

Okay, all bets are off. This is obviously wine masquerading as cider. Champagne yeast does its thing, drying out this blend to create a cosmopolitan essence. But unlike, say, a pinot gris, there's still a lusciousness that feels smooth and cider-like as it goes down. Beautiful, complex aromas from California's drunkest apples linger in the air. It's sophisticated. Well-traveled. Grey Poupon.

Flavor-wise, 'tis definitely one for the discriminating palate. It drinks almost like a cider spritzer; Ultra light, with just the slightest whisper of west coast pressed-apple sweetness, and a pleasant aftertaste that leaves a nice tip after a wonderful meal.

Sonoma County original Golden State Cider has been around since 2012, making quick work of turning heirloom favorite apples from the farmer's market into a much-loved treat. With no sugar, and a 3-ingredient rundown including apple juice, malic acid, and yeast, this gluten-free and vegan sipper is perfectly ripe for the pickin'.

Coronado Brewing Company: Nice & Dry

At first "kwisst!" we pop open the tab to find a fresh and clean apple fragrance, which pours out into a shimmering champagne color. We obviously expect a "nice and dry" flavor and that's exactly what we get. This offering features an effervescent and mellow apple, pear, and melon experience for those who just want to high-five some fruit, and not make out with it. The flavor profile might best be described as: The grown-up version of Mott's apple juice, if it were served in a champagne flute with all the pinkies out.

It sips like a feather-light, adulting apple juice, canned instead of boxed with the straw glued onto the side. If you're the "cider's too sweet" kind of person, this brew is for you. Like a fresh apple picked straight from the tree and poured into your glass. It's that.

Coronado Brewing Company was born in 1996, as a laid back brew pub for San Diego locals. You can trust that plenty of passion — and coastal vibe — goes into the bottling process for these hard ciders. With a barely sweet, velvety finish, Nice & Dry goes down nice and easy.

Stem Ciders: Pear

Hey there, Stem Ciders, with the cutest can in all the land. We're going a little sweeter and pear-ier with this little stunner from the Colorado brand which proudly affirms, "The world is your orchard." Yes! And it appears that this particular tree features an immediate hit of fresh green pear skins that warm up to an almost applesauce-like fragrance. And yes, our noses are still fully huffing the can.

It's pear-pear without leaning into fake candy territory, featuring a refreshingly authentic flavor (real fruit alert!) with just a hint of tartness. Kind of like the drink version of those schmancy Harry & David pears that come in the gold foil. Except we prefer our golden pears to be liquified and perfectly chilled in the beer fridge.

This brand packs 11 grams of sugar in a 12 ounce can — but with zero added sugars, rest assured that this is natural sugar from the fruit. What's not at all natural, is how many of these you could probably drink without even realizing it.

101 Cider House: Black Dog

Black Dog's in the house with the flippity can that you turn upside down to activate (hence the crazy label). Just remember to turn it right side up to drink. So what are we activating, exactly? Well, it appears like a whole bunch of activated charcoal-detoxing goodness, derived from a few choice coconuts. That, and lavender picked from alongside California's Highway 101. We promise this is a real drink.

Maybe it's the fact that we already know it's the global premier black cider, but on first pop, we smelled a fruity, fresh Sharpie fragrance. (If you've smelled a marker, you know what we mean.) Luckily, that was quickly followed by a spiced apple scent. While we recommend drinking this one from the can to keep everything well-mixed and those blood orange citrus vibes poppin', of course we had to pour it out to see this charcoal situation for ourselves.

It's not jet black, but more like a dirty dishwater gray. Without the can, there emerges a little tinge of should we really be drinking this? This obvious conversation starter might launch a fun "Are you ok? Is this from the storm drain?" banter. But with its deliciously sour flavor, it's one probiotic hard cider that will also do your body good.

2 Towns Cider House: Cosmic Crisp Imperial Cider

If you're a Trader Joe's junkie, you know this crowd loves them some Cosmic Crisp Imperial Cider. According to one Trader Joe's employee in Los Angeles, it's the top selling cider for the grocery outlet — and at 8 percent alcohol by volume, boy howdy, it's a keeper. Those impossibly fresh and fruity northwest apples hit first, with a classic cider tang that stings your nose and lights up your taste buds on contact. The light golden color tells us it's the champagne of beers, but, you know, of cider. Believe it.

We'd say this is one to pour into a glass, so you can appreciate the bubbly foam that fizzles off fast no matter how bad you are at pouring a beer. (Hands up over here!) If you like your cider to flow smooth like Sunday morning, with a sweet and apple-forward zip, the traditional flavors of this blend are an easy crowd-pleaser. Got cider fans coming over? Stock up like Cosmic Crisp is going out of business.

Oregon-grown 2 Towns Ciderhouse sources sweetly tart Cosmic Crisp apples, along with other winners of Pacific Northwest orchards for a taste — and a buzz — that surges into the stratosphere. Are those stars? Are we in space? We can't feel our feet anymore. Oh cool, moon boots!

Golden State Cider: Mighty Dry

Want a bone dry cider with zero — catch that: zero — sweet stuff? Golden State Cider's Mighty Dry just might absorb all the moisture in your mouth as well. It's the Sahara Desert of ciders in another dimension where sweetness never existed and Willy Wonka just worked at a hedge fund.

Of course, there are still apples in it. But champagne yeast makes another appearance to snuff out the cider sweetness, giving us a crisp apple fragrance right from the jump.

While it's perfectly acceptable to sip from the can, pour this one out for the most elegant cider experience. Dazzling with its sparkly champagne color, it's as if we're looking at effervescent rods and stems like a fine glass of wine. Beautiful bubbles last almost forever, popping brightly like apple fireworks. As we would hope with a dry cider, there's no syrupy mouthfeel, and instead, a refreshing flavor like it was touched by the light hand of the apple gods. Okay, enough talking, let's get to toasting.

101 Cider House: Cactus Rosé

It's cactus rosé and it tastes like you just bit into the business end of a Saguaro cactus arm — but with a delightful, fruity zing, a hibiscus flower in your hair, and zero cactus needles stuck in your tongue. Luckily, this isn't a Roadrunner cartoon, this is happy hour. Starring you.

First impressions reveal a fruity and plant-y fragrance, like the inside of a watery succulent. It even smells a little bit like sweet hot sauce, or maybe a fresh tomato. Once you pour it out, you get that spicy cider vibe, landing it firmly in the fermented friend zone.

Expect a powerful sour kick from this antioxidant-rich cider with a rush of what feels like the juice of a hot pink cactus — otherwise known as a cactus pear. A strong hibiscus undercurrent, along with lemon peel and basil, makes this a taco Tuesday go-to. But why limit yourself to a Tuesday when you can eat tacos on every day of the week?

ACE: Pineapple Craft Cider

Let's face it, some places in the world are actually hot during the holidays — and not every fall cider has to taste like apple, yes? This question will self destruct in three, two, one ... Right, glad you're on board. Say hello to our little friend: ACE Pineapple Craft Cider. Surprise, it tastes like actual Hawaiian pineapples! (And, okay, yes, like apples too!)

Everything about this brand screams pineapple. But just after popping the tab, that wasn't exactly the fruit we were imagining. We could even say that it smells like apples until after the foam goes down. That's when a ripe pineapple shows up and punches you in the face. Ka-BAM. Pineapple, b****es!

Tropical vibes come out in full force here. First inspired by a trip to Hawaii, this California-crafted blend is destined to become a favorite of warm weather cider fans. As the story goes, it's the first of its kind. Y'know, pineapple cider wise. Sweet "hala kahiki" (Hawaiian for pineapple) plays nice with fermented apples, allowing its sweetness to dry out just a little, so you can easily sip this one all night. That settles it. Bring on the beach bonfire, we're doing an island Thanksgiving luau this year. 

Henry Hotspur's: Hard Pressed for Cider

Who the heck is Henry Hotspur, and why is he so hard pressed? Well, he's actually a real guy — whose real name was Henry Percy — who lived the high life in England, back in the 1300s-ish. We imagine that he wore a ruffled blouse and a Monty Python-style tunic. No official word on the trials and tribulations of his daily life, but the cider named after him? A triumph.

This formula dishes up a super fresh top note like the inside of a pumpkin; it smells like immersive nature, but also like humans shouldn't be up in there. The apple notes then step forward to launch its assault by shooting fruity carbonation straight into your nostrils. Classic Henry.

We drank this one from the can, and also the glass. And we'd advise you to can it in this case, for better scent preservation. It's thick bodied and straight juice-like, but with a lesser alcohol content than its Trader Joe's shelf competitor, Cosmic Crisp. Still, it's another crowd-pleaser nonetheless. Fruit forward, and smooth. This line from "Oliver Twist" says it all: "Please, sir, I want some more."

Angry Orchard: Fireside Mix

That mean old tree from Angry Orchard knows what you like, and how you like it. And if you don't like all your favorite flavors in a variety pack because you can't always decide between classic apple and holy crap apple pie, you do now. Because the tree said so. The 4-variety Angry Orchard Fireside Mix is only available for the pumpkin-spiced Spooky Season, so better get sippin' (or, seriously, that tree is definitely coming for you).

First up, Crisp Apple. This is your easy-drinking standard cider, combining culinary apples with cider-style apples for a surprisingly dimensional profile. It definitely reads sweet before the first sip, and tastes fresh and smooth all day long. With no funny business, this one's for apple purists who don't want to work too hard to appreciate their cider.

Super green from the jump, the Green Apple variety smells like there might be grass or green leaves from the apple tree also involved in the brewing process. (There aren't.) But there's no question as to whether it's plant-y. This is for former Crisp Apple lovers slash daredevils, or cider fans who love a brisk fall day where the cold takes your breath away. It would be bitter if it weren't so smooth and sweet. Are there green grapes in it? Grapes that fell into some freshly mowed grass? All we can think of right now are green things.

Back with another one of those block rockin' beats, fan favorite Cinnful Apple serves up Fireball-adjacent vibes. But this flavor packs a smooth, much less potent cinnamon that doesn't burn your esophagus as it goes down. You'll notice a sweet honey-like scent, with a feeling like you just lit a cozy campfire in your mouth. 

Last, but not least, a certain set of us lose our minds over Baked Apple Pie. Ever smelled the perfect fall-spiced candle ... and kind of wanted to lick it? (It's okay. We're currently chewing on wax lips. We're all friends here.) Well, this cider is that candle. With a lot less wax. It's unapologetically sweet, with warming vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg flavors, and a fragrance like the creamy filling inside pumpkin spice Oreos. If you would spoon-feed yourself the syrupy apple pie drippings as they're about to caramelize in the oven, Angry Orchard's Baked Apple Pie is your hard cider soulmate. Til death!