One of my favorite adjuncts for cider is honey. It’s amazing how just a little honey can add unique aromas and flavors to a cider. It also turns it into a cyser, which is a cider made with honey. If you make mead, you might start calling it other names. For me, the addition of some honey with apple still being the main source of sugar means it’s a cyser versus a mead. That means I am just adding some honey to augment the flavors and not dominate it. The hard question is around what honey should you use. I did a cyser experiment with Buckwheat, Neem, Orange Blossom, and Tupelo. The Neem won that contest but, my favorite was still the Tupelo. It’s a honey made from the tupelo trees in the South Eastern US – Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia border area. It’s unique because the fructose to glucose ratio means it will almost never crystallize. This plus the challenges of collecting the precious nectar makes this honey the most expensive in America.
It has a floral aroma that transfers to the cider. If you desire even more aroma, you could bottle conditioning the cider with more tupelo honey. When I first made this, I used store bought juice, most likely made from culinary apples, which is why I recommend Red Delicious and Granny Smith for this hard cider recipe. You could also use Fuji apples as a base. This cider should be sparkling and should have a nice acidic finish versus highly phenolic. I used Cider House Select for my yeast but I would also recommend WLP775 English Cider Yeast from White Labs. I also recommend clarifying your juice prior to fermenting to enhance the fruity aromas. Adding the honey chaptalizes the juice. For my juice, that meant increasing the specific gravity of the juice from around 1.050 to 1.070 giving me an ABV in the 8.5-9.0% ABV range.
I made a 1 gallon batch and my recipe sheet is my usual 1 gallon (3.8 liters). You can just scale this up as needed. Here are quick links to the Tupelo Cyser recipe as well as the recipe section where you can find inspiration from a multitude of hard ciders recipes.