How about them apples? Hard ciders, like hard seltzers and canned cocktails, have benefitted from the craft beer boom of the early 2000s. Credit the expanded taste buds of consumers and the ingenuity of small-batch brewers. There's a veritable orchard of hard cider options out there, though some of them can taste sickly sweet. We taste-tested the latest and (sometimes) greatest hard ciders on the market and made a few important discoveries. Tip #1: Seek out freshness. Scan the label for the words “pressed from fresh apples.” Of the 20-plus hard ciders we sampled, the brands that were made from fresh apples, not concentrate, tasted the most like a fine champagne. Testers noted that the concentrate-derived kind had a cloying, headache-inducing sweetness. Tip #2: Avoid added sugars. Cider labels aren’t required by federal regulations to list nutritional info, so many don’t. But it’s not unusual for a mass-market brand to have 19 to 24 grams of sugar in 12 ounces. (That’s the amount in three plain doughnuts.) Among ciders that list ingredients, look for ones without added sugars (e.g., sucrose). Tip #3: Dodge a calorie hangover. Our analysis found that larger producers’ brews have about 200 calories per serving. “For a dry, high-alcohol cider, more calories come from alcohol than sugar,” says Gary Williamson, food scientist at University of Leeds. So sip hard cider like a good wine instead of knocking it back like a sixer of light beer. These six will get you well on your way to better-tasting cider worth savoring.

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