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Cider rules: The West's latest brews are the basis for terrific fall cocktails.

JUST WHEN I've given myself permission not to sample every craft beer in the West, along comes a new small-batch beverage commanding the same level of boozy research--hard cider. Well, not new exactly. Popular across the East and Midwest in the 1880s, cider (including pear versions, called "perries") lost ground as people learned to love the beer European immigrants were introducing. Now, though, West Coast cideries from Seattle to Sonoma and beyond are crafting at warp speed, and the style spectrum is enormous. Ciders range from bone dry to quite sweet (the alcohol level can be a clue; limited by law to 7 percent, a level lower than that often means sweeter), and from still to sparkling (most are spritzy). Beyond that, brewers are playing with flavors from mild (ginger) to wild (jalaperio).

For sipping straight, Sunsets cider fans prefer drier versions. But we discovered that semisweet and sweet styles make great mixers; they really shine in this lineup of fall cocktails. One caution: Don't actually shake these drinks--cider's effervescence can turn your shaker into an MED (Mini Exploding Device).

TALL LEMON PERRY

Stir 5 oz. sweeter-style hard apple cider; 2 oz. pear-infused vodka, such as Grey Goose; and 1 tsp. lemon juice together in a cocktail shaker or large glass. Pour over ice in a tall, narrow glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

POMEGRANATE FLING

Pour 4 oz. sweeter-style hard apple cider, 2 oz. botanical-style gin, and 1 oz. pomegranate liqueur over ice in a cocktail shaker or large glass. Add 1 large thyme sprig and stir. Strain into a martini glass and float a small thyme sprig on top.

KENTUCKY WEST

Muddle 2 large fresh mint leaves in a cocktail shaker or large glass.Add 4 oz. semisweet hard apple cider, 11/2 oz. bourbon, and 1 tsp. simple syrup. Stir, then pour (strain if you like) over ice in a lowball glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.

By Sara Schneider with R.J. Smith

Sara tweets! Follow wine editor Sara Schneider for tasting tips, wine picks, and news: @SarailtSunset.

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Title Annotation:Food & Drink
Author:Schneider, Sara; Smith, R.J.
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2014
Words:343
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