Few things feel as festive as popping a bottle of bubbly. So why stop at champagne? Santa Cruz is brimming with complex, artisanal hard ciders that are about as far a cry from Martinelli’s as you can get (no offense). Not only is the dry, farmhouse-style craftsmanship reminiscent of sparkling wine, but these effervescent brews also pair beautifully with nearly everything on the holiday table. Look for them at local bottle shops, the Food Lounge and specialty markets:
- There’s almost no residual sugar in the very dry, very crisp Zozo Dry Farmhouse Cider by Tanuki Cider (8.5 percent alcohol, 22-ounce bottle). Pale yellow and a bit cloudy, this unfiltered cider has a tart, snappy finish. The limited-release Hurricane Dry Imperial Cider is clear and light on the palate.
- The Wooden Tooth Special from Santa Cruz Cider Company is medium-bodied and bone dry with a clean, fruity finish. Unlike some of the other ciders, this cider has a pronounced apple aroma and flavor without tasting sweet, and nicely balanced acidity. The Ottsonville Special is made entirely from apples from a pre-prohibition orchard outside of Corralitos and has a bit more structure than the Wooden Tooth.
- The Santa Cruz Scrumpy from Surf City Cider comes in a variety of fruit-infused variations, including black cherry “chider” and pomegranate, but I prefer the classic hard apple. Lower carbonation gives the Scrumpy a fuller texture and allows a clean, apple-y sweetness to hit your palate, carrying through the soft finish.
- The organic apples in Soquel Cider are grown, pressed and fermented at Everett Family Farm in Soquel. Laura Everett favors heirloom varieties for her cider, resulting in a clean, delicate creation with complex acidity.
- The Psyko Psyder from Krazy Farm Cider is the newest hard cider to hit the local market. Fresh-pressed juice is blended with cardamom, ginger and honey, resulting in a powerfully heady tea-like aroma, spicy body and long, dry finish.