It's hot. You need to cool off. Beer? You could. But lately, it seems like thoughtful cider programs are really gaining traction at Boston bars and restaurants. And whether you prefer a style that's sweet or dry, that cider crispness is sometimes just what you need to cut through the heat and humidity.
Where to start? Here are a handful of varieties at cider-embracing bars that really deserve your attention — and your palate.
Bantam Americain at Ames Street Deli. Bar manager Sam Treadway, generally regarded among the city's best (he's one of our past "30 Under 30" honorees) has a particular fondness for Bantam; the Somerville-made craft cider has its taproom right across the street from Treadway's Union Square home. The accessible Americain, brewed by combining New England apples with spices like cardamom and clove, was chosen by Bantam to be its inaugural can release. Four-packs started hitting shelves in May. 73 Ames St., Cambridge; 617-374-0701
Far From the Tree 'Nova' at The Blue Ox. The North Shore restaurant supports a North Shore cider-maker by stocking Nova from Salem's Far From the Tree. The crisp hopped cider is made with Massachusetts-grown Macintosh apples — and yes, that is a hint of maple syrup you detect. Pro-tip: try it in 'Des Pommes!' (pictured at page top), a cocktail from Blue Ox beverage director Charles Gaeta (also a "30 Under 30" honoree) that combines Nova with ginger liqueur, apple brandy and bitters into a refreshing sipper. (The name is a reference to the Good Will Hunting scene where Matt Damon bellows "How do ya like 'dem apples!") 191 Oxford St., Lynn; 781-780-5722
Doc's Hard Cider at Bondir Concord. Chef Jason Bond added a small cider selection to this suburban gem in the spring, including one from Doc's, a Hudson Valley cidery that launched way ahead of the trend in 1993. It's light and effervescent with some haylike notes; the kind of cider you'd imagine sipping during a festive farm dinner. So it's certainly apropos accompaniment for Bondir's farm-to-table cuisine. 24 Walden St., Concord; 978-610-6554
Etienne Dupont Cidre Triple at Brewer's Fork. Unsurprisingly, given the involvement of beverage guru Michael Cooney (previously of The Publick House), this Charlestown newcomer has a particularly noteworthy cider list to accompany its 30 craft beers on draft. (Check out that bar below.) We love the yeasty funk of this unfiltered, unpasteurized variety, complex and laden with notes of chicory. Brewer's Fork suggests pairing it with a charcuterie or cheese board; we suggest listening to them. 7 Moulton St., Charlestown; 617-337-5703
Fuchshof 'Most German Rough Cider' at Bronwyn. Chef Tim Wiechmann's German restaurant in Somerville already has two ciders on tap, but keep an eye out for this sharp cider, pressed and filtered in a unique German style: canvas-wrapped crushed apples are stacked up to 10 layers deep, separated by wooden boards. The resulting cider is earthy and pleasantly acidic with hints of grass, perfect for the strapping Bavarian grub at Bronwyn. 255 Washington St., Somerville; 617-776-9900
Le Père Jules at Coda Kitchen + Bar. This reliable American on the Back Bay–South End borderline recently added some sparkling ciders to the beverage program, including this Normandy export made from three varieties of pears. It's slightly sour and champagnelike, with a long finish and vibrancy that pairs especially well with seafood. 329 Columbus Ave.; 617-536-2632
Citizen Cider 'The Full Nelson' at Eastern Standard. Hats off to Eastern, which just scored "Best American Restaurant Bar" at Tales of the Cocktail. Exhibit A: They're smart enough to keep this dry-hopped, Middlebury, Vermont–made cider on their thoughtful list. It's bright and citrus-y, something that's easily accessible for beer drinkers looking to dip their toe into the sea of craft ciders. 528 Commonwealth Ave.; 617-532-9100
Stormalong Cider at The Gastropub at Heritage of Sherborn. In case you needed another reason to try this suburban newcomer (aside from the fact that it comes from the husband-wife team behind Brookline's awesome La Morra), here it is: to honor the roots of Sherborn, once home to the largest refined cider mill in the world, the gastropub has partnered with Stormalong, a small-batch producer that launched in the town just a few years ago. There are four Stormalong styles on tap, which can be sampled through a cider flight, if you're indecisive. 33 S. Main St., Sherborn; 508-655-8445
Oyster River Winegrowers 'Hoboken Station Cider' at Loyal Nine. Given the Cambridge newcomer's focus on "New England revival" cookery, it's no surprise that they offer a smart cider list — and even integrate it into the edibles, à la oysters dressed with hard cider vinaigrette. But we're most baited by this Maine-made cider, sparkling and slightly sweet, with notes that recall honey and stone fruits. 660 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 617-945-2576
Moa 'Kiwifruit' at Post 390. The Back Bay's upscale tavern has a selection of small and large bottles. From the latter, check out the New Zealand–produced Kiwifruit; the cider is fermented and aged in French oak with its namesake fruit, which lends an interesting tropical spin to things. 406 Stuart St.; 617-399-0015
Rekorderlig Pear Cider at Saus. Earlier this summer the Downtown poutine destination upped its cider selection from one (cool) to four (woo!), and we're especially intrigued by this pear cider, which only recently entered the American market. It's a fresh and crisp Swedish export with a tart kick — just what we want to balance out the heaviness of sauce-slathered frites. 33 Union St.; 617-248-8835