In the last few years, the city has really embraced crisp, fruity and refined cider as a happy medium between beer and wine. Witness the growing popularity of New York’s annual Cider Week (don’t miss our upcoming festival guide!) as well as a significantly enhanced presence on local menus, with Aaron Burr and Bad Seed edging out Angry Orchard and Scrumpy Jack.
But Wassail — opened on the Lower East Side by the Queen’s Kickshaw team last year — is New York’s very first dedicated cider bar, featuring up to 100 different variations sourced from around the world, sold by the bottle, pint or glass. It’s so extensive, the best way to work through the draft list is by ordering an American or International Flight; comprised of funky Downeast Wassail, bubbly Rootstock Heritage and unfiltered Hudson Valley Farmhouse, or full-bodied Christian Drouin, savory Castanon, or tannic Hogan’s Drought.
The bottle selection is as formidable as the wine list at any fine dining restaurant; offering numerous options of “Sidra” from Spain, “Sagardoa” via the Basque region, and “Cidre” from France, as well as Ice Ciders, Calvados, Apple Brandies, Pommeau, and Eau de Vie. As for North America, it occupies a page unto itself, divided into “Fruit” (including Brooklyn Cider House’s Half Sour and Eve’s Autumn Gold), “Savory” (running the gamut from Good Life’s Rye Barrel to Farnum Hill’s Extra Dry), and “Wild” — offering unusual entities like Blackduck’s Bottle Conditioned and Aaron Burr’s Appinette, co-fermented with grapes. Oh, and there’s even a series of apple-forward cocktails as well — think the “Hotel California” made with rum, matcha and cider, the “Roustabout” with calvados and averna, and a trio of Boilermakers; throw back a shot of rye with English cider, or calvados teamed with a shorty of French cidre.
And don’t forget that Wassail is also a legitimate restaurant. Yes, cider is occasionally incorporated right into the dishes (ice cider is used to glaze a smoked duck breast, paired with haricot vert, plums and frisee), but more importantly, the menu is designed as an elegant compliment. Consider starters such as pimento-dusted Pork Belly Pintxos (calling for an Isastegi from Spain), sides such as Fried Squash Blossoms with goat cheese and spicy honey (try Slyboro’s syrupy-smooth Ice Harvest), Large Plates like Weisswurst on a baguette with mustard (go for Germany’s Weidmann & Groh), and a delightful collection of cheeses; Normandy’s Domaine Dupont Brut is a brilliant match for triple cream Brillat-Savarin.
Forget about eating them; thanks to Wassail, we could easily drink an apple (or five) a day!
162 Orchard St.