This is a hard cider mistelle. That is a cider that has been fortified with a spirit. Since pommeau is historically apple juice fortified with apple brandy or cavaldos but is also used to describe hard cider fortified with apple brandy. A cider mistelle is made from other spirits. In this recipe, that is organic tequila and my inspiration was a ciderita cocktail I mixed at one of our parties. I thought why not put it all in a bottle. This fits into my Dessert cider category because the ABV is 10-11% once you add the 40% ABV of the tequila to the 5-6% ABV of the cider. I used a lower ABV tolerant ale yeast as I want the tequila addition to arrest fermentation. This is the reason I rack the cider around a gravity of 1.015. It will probably drop to around 1.010 but should stabilize. If you want it slightly sweeter, you could rack and add the tequila at 1.020. I wouldn’t go much higher or you might find the yeast doesn’t stop.
I used Jonathan apples for this hard cider base. It’s a nice sugar and acid balance. 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 peppers, tequila, and grapefruit are the stars of this show. It is bold, it is spicy, and it very good. It is one of those drinks that doesn’t taste alcoholic though the ABV is substantial. Most of all, the Carolina Reaper shines, which means you will feel it in your throat and nasal passage. It starts with a balance of sweet, tart, and grapefruit. You next pick up the tequila and the finish is all pepper.
Why Carolina Reaper? When I ran across an organic offering, I couldn’t turn it down. My wife and I have incorporated peppers, mostly jalapeños, into almost every dish we make. Candied jalapeños are a must have condiment in our house. Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapeños so I thought that smoky flavor would be a bonus. I used an organic reposado tequila, which has some barrel aging. I love grapefruit and I thought a pepper grapefruit combination would be a great pairing. Since this was a margarita inspired drinks, I had to include a few limes. That citric acid is not ideal for long-term aging but this cider mistelle is really intended to be enjoyed young (<12 months). As for pairing, think bold and spicy food. Mexican enchiladas or tacos would be ideal but we actually paired it initially with a spicy Sloppy Joes pizza so expect to see it in a future pizza and cider post. I bottled this in 187ml champagne bottles mostly because that is about perfect for a single serving. It does have a slight carbonation but not anything that would create a head. Just enough to realize some of the volatile aromas.
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 want to preserve or ensure no more fermentation if you back sweeten more. 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 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. If you want to bottle condition this cider to 2.5 volumes, you can add 25 grams of priming sugar per gallon (6.6 grams per liter). This should give you the additional volumes CO2 that you would need to reach 2.5. This assumes you didn’t degas the hard cider, which means you should have around 0.85 volumes of CO2 already suspended in it. You could also bottle this still if you don’t want to create sediment.
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 grapefruit with other fruits, like cranberries or prickly pear. Think about other margaritas that you have had and let your imagination take you there. I think you need the limes or this evolves into another type of mistelle.
- Yeast Alternatives: You want to select a yeast that isn’t intended to go to extremely high alcohol levels. I used Omega English Ale VIII but another good option would be Mangrove Belgium Abbey M47 or White Lab Torulaspora delbrueckii WLP603. 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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