Flora Dora is a hard cider mistelle. It is a cider that has been fortified with organic gin. Mistelles sometimes have specific names like pommeau or port, but they are basically combining a distilled spirit with another beverage. The idea is generally to bump up the alcohol to a level that prevents further fermentation (usually in the 15-18% ABV range). This can give you a cider that has some residual sweetness. I like to create cider mistelles that mimic classic cocktails. Flora Dora is my take on the classic Floradora cocktail created in the early 1900s in New York. It adds gin, raspberries, lime, and juniper to a cider that has fermented to a gravity around 1.015-1.020. The gin is added to arrest fermentation while the adjuncts provide interesting flavors. The use of a Tilt or similar device to actively monitor your gravity is beneficial. I usually target 1.015 but if you want something a little sweeter, 1.020 should work as well. The %ABV should be around 12%-13% if you are mixing one 750ml bottle of spirits with a gallon fermentation (3.5-3.8L) of cider around 6% ABV. A strong wine yeast might keep fermenting, which would give you a dryer and slightly higher ABV.
I used Egremont Russet apples for this hard cider base but, almost any apple with a decent sugar (>1.050) and acid (>6g/l or pH ~3.5) would work well. This recipe is using the apple versus highlighting the apple. The juniper, lime, and raspberry are the main stars of this cider. Be careful as this is a drink that you may not realize has a kick to it. It’s a beautiful pink color and has notes of mint and pine. I bottled this in 187ml champagne bottles mostly because that is perfect for a single serving versus because its highly carbonated. I gave it some carbonation but not much. The intent is to help release some of the volatile aromas versus adding to the mouthfeel.
As always you can adapt this hard cider recipe to your preferred method. As is my normal, I don’t use sulfites or sorbates in my ciders. If you want to add, you can always add sulfites 24 hours before inoculating with yeast. This cider mistelle should be stable but you can always add sulfite and sorbate before packaging if you want to preserve or ensure no more fermentation in the event you decide to back sweeten. Also, you may want to add it to avoid a MLF as this recipe isn’t really intended for that process. I tend to avoid preservatives and let the natural and raw cider mature. The ABV will be your most stabilizing element but it’s only around the level of a wine so MLF is capable.
I also filter my hard ciders but you can simply age them longer, cold crash them, and/or use fining to help clarify your hard ciders. The same is true for carbonation. You may not be able to bottle condition this cider because of the high %ABV. Don’t worry if you can’t force carbonate. This cider will be excellent still. Remember, you should have a touch of CO2 (~0.85 volumes) from the fermentation process unless you degas it.
If you are not using kegs, always remember to limit your oxygen exposure by limiting your headspace when aging. If you are looking for some variations on this recipe, consider the following.
- Fruits: You could easily replace the lime and raspberries with other fruits, like strawberries or orange. Think about other similar combinations that you have enjoyed and let your imagination take you there.
- Yeast Alternatives: You want to select a yeast that isn’t intended to go to extremely high alcohol levels. I used Lalvin 71B as an experiment. It may not be the best if you want more residual sugar. An ale yeast like SafAle S-04, Mangrove Belgium Abbey M47, or White Lab Torulaspora delbrueckii WLP603 might be better. It is about alcohol tolerance versus aromas and flavors.
- Back Sweeten: If you desire a sweeter hard cider, consider adding 40 grams per gallon (10.5 grams per liter) of organic erythritol to the cider before bottling. Erythritol is a non-fermentable sugar alcohol and will increase the sweetness without adding a strong aftertaste.
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