This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
It isn’t exactly breaking news that rosé is having a (years-long) moment. At this point, the pink-hued wine trend has touched a variety of categories across the food and beverage space: We’ve seen everything from gourmet gummies to doughnuts, gin, tequila, and even a vodka blend.
Recently, the warm-weather wine sparked yet another trend: rosé cider. Rosé ciders have been circulating for several years on a smaller scale, beginning with smaller-batch, regionally sold bottles and cans. If you’ve been seeing rosé cider everywhere recently, the latest buzz is thanks to bigger mainstream brands like Angry Orchard rolling out their own takes on the boozy drink. To find out more about the latest iteration of the rosé trend, we spoke with Michelle McGrath, Executive Director of the U.S. Association of Cider Makers. Ahead, McGrath breaks down the blush-hued beverage. She explains everything from what sets the cider apart from its wine counterpart to the different varieties on the market, and how the new trend started in the first place.
What is rosé cider?
“There are two main categories of cider:
“1. Heritage ciders are made with apples that are specifically grown for making cider. They are generally not great for eating, they’re expensive, they have tannins, and a complexity that is similar to a wine grape.
“2. Modern ciders are made with dessert apples (such as honey crisp, red delicious, galas, etc.) They are more akin to a concord grape, so will still taste refreshing, but won’t have tannins and a complexity to their flavor.
“The heritage cider market has been making rosé ciders for a while with red fleshed apples. The inside of these apples is red and it gives the cider a beautiful blush hue. But the reality is that there are very few red fleshed cider apples in the marketplace, and if you’re making cider at any sort of scale it’s going to be extremely difficult to maintain the color that’s coming through from those red fleshed apples. So for larger cider makers that are making rosé ciders now, they are generally coming to it from a modern angle — which includes additional fruit flavors.
“Modern ciders can add things other than apples — and that’s where we see fruit ciders, spiced ciders, herb ciders, coffee ciders, tea ciders. There are all kinds of fun ciders in the modern category, it’s extremely innovative and the sky is the limit. As long as it’s primarily apples, then you can have a lot of fun with it.”
Where does modern rosé cider get its pink hue?
“Several modern rosé ciders out there are flavored, perhaps most commonly, with hibiscus (which gives it a pink hue and a nice rosé flavor because it’s also a little bit floral) — others can use cherry, or plum, and other fruits, it varies.”
Are there limits to what a rosé cider can be?
“ The rosé cider category is young, so a lot of definitions are still being created. Rosé cider does not mean anything other than pink cider at this point. There are some folks that are very strict in their cider definitions, and would tell you that only a cider made with red fleshed apples would be a true rosé, but that is not agreed upon category wide. If you’re talking about a heritage rosé cider, it can only be a heritage if it’s made with heritage cider apples. But once you start looking at modern ciders, the sky is the limit for how you get that pink hue.
“Though, it’s important to note that if a product has malt in it, it is NOT a rosé cider — it’s a flavored malt beverage. There are some products out there that are being slyly marketed as rosé ciders, and they’re not.”
Why was there a sudden spike of brands making rosé ciders?
“It started with the heritage cider makers, then it went to smaller local and regional cider companies, and now the national brands are making rosé ciders as well. But it’s not just cider that experiencing the rosé boom, it’s gin, it’s vodka, there’s rosé beer — everyone is going crazy about rosé. I think one of the reasons for that is because wine drinkers are getting tired of these extremely bold, high alcohol bombs that perhaps aren’t incredibly fruit-friendly even though they’re marketed as such. They’re looking for something that’s more refreshing and lower alcohol. And rosé cider hits the nail on the head. It’s an attempt to woo wine drinkers, and I think it’s going to be successful.”
Where do you see this trending going?
“I think what rosé cider is going to achieve is bringing new drinkers to the cider category, where they’ll start to explore the other varieties out there other than rosé. They think of cider as a beverage, but it’s really a very broad category akin to beer or wine. It’s going to be a fun summer trend that will bring people to the cider for the first time, and then when they stick around and start exploring some of the other amazing ciders available, they’ll move on from rosé.”
What should we be drinking it with?
“ Cider is a phenomenal food pairing beverage, it goes really well with a lot of food — its best partners are cheese and pork. A sweeter rosé cider would go really well with spicy Asian food, and a drier rosé cider would go well with oysters. Oysters and cider are a really amazing pairing.”
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