Cider is a fall menu staple for many reasons. It’s delicious when steamed and topped with a dash of cinnamon or dollop of whipped cream, and it’s incredibly versatile. Cider can be a featured ingredient in baked goods, such as apple cider donuts and various other sippable and edible treats.
For some, nothing encapsulates the flavors of autumn like cider, and it’s a treat that appeals to all ages. Adding cider to your menu not only builds excitement for the season, but it’s also a caffeine-free, kid- and afternoon-friendly beverage.
With all its potential, there’s every reason to serve cider now—and perhaps 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 hot ginger cascara cider, a seasonal fall beverage made at Hawthorn Coffee in San Diego. The drink combines hot ginger cascara tea and fresh, house-made apple cider.
Hawthorn Coffee 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,” Redmond says. “We played with it and decided it would be one of our yummy fall drinks.”
The drink is a complex yet cozy beverage for customers wanting a fall drink with a creative edge. “The cascara has a nice cherry/tamarind flavor, a good cherry pulse through the apples, and with the spices 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 the vegans.”
“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 expand or create foam. Steam to temp and serve.
From Concentrate to Sparkling—And Beyond
Mountain Cider Company in North Chittenden, Vermont, 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 daily, they either did not have enough cider—or had too much, and it went bad. They created an apple cider concentrate to solve the problem, and Mountain Cider Company was born.
Now, the bulk of Mountain Cider’s customer base 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 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 the two popular items is a natural pairing. Classic Coffee’s sparkling cider is essentially an Italian apple 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 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 the cider’s inherent sweetness. Add ice and sparkling water, stir, and serve!
Cider can also play a part in alcoholic beverages for cafés. Bourbon, sparkling wine, spiced rum, and vodka are all common additions to get customers into the holiday spirit.
Adding cider to your bar can increase your revenue. Creative cider drinks appeal to all ages and provide alternatives to coffee for afternoon and evening menus. Off-season options reduce waste and keep your customers curious, engaged, and excited throughout the year.
Rachel Sandstrom Morrison is a Southern California-born writer, novelist, and public relations professional adopted by the Pacific Northwest.
This article was originally published on October 17, 2022 and has been updated to meet Fresh Cup’s current editorial standards.