Wine meets cider in local mixologist’s new blend

WASHINGTON — Wine and cider lovers no longer have to choose between one or the other at the bar. This fall, they can have both — all in one sip.

At The Red Hen in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, beverage director Sebastian Zutant is serving up his latest experiment: rosé cider.

A qvevri is an ancient clay vessel that was originally used to make wine in Georgia.  Sebastian Zutant used a qvevri to make his rosé cider. (Courtesy Sebastian Zutant)
A qvevri is an ancient clay vessel that was originally used to make wine in Georgia. Sebastian Zutant used a qvevri to make his rosé cider. (Courtesy Sebastian Zutant)

The sparkling concoction is made from the lees, or yeast byproduct, of rosé wine from Virginia Wineworks and cider from Virginia’s Castle Hill. The idea behind the blend? Let’s just say it stems from the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

“There’s such cool byproduct from wine that you get to really play around with a lot of stuff,” says Zutant, who has collaborated on several other unconventional beverage projects, such as his Sauvignon Blanc Saison with the brewers at DC Brau.

“I thought it would be a cool idea to take basically what people throw away and see if I could move it over to another genre and see how it worked out.”

Zutant says he’s quite pleased with the outcome. The combination may sound odd, but the flavor is familiar — similar to that of a sparkling rosé, but with a subtle hint of apple.

“For me, cider is always crisp and clean and somewhat earthy,” Zutant says. “But this has a lot more of a fruit component to it. And on the finish, especially, it has a soft red fruit finish.”

Just in time for the holiday season, Zutant says the rosé cider pairs perfectly with turkey and all the trimmings of a Thanksgiving meal. Only, don’t try to make it at home and serve it to your guests.

Making a wine-beer hybrid isn’t as simple as mixing merlot with Miller. The process for the rosé cider took about eight months, during which the cider sat above the lees in an ancient clay cask, called a qvevri.

“I guess you could say it’s an infusion more than anything else,” Zutant says.

Want to get a taste? Zutant only made 20 cases of the rosé cider (and has even fewer now), which he plans to serve at The Red Hen until it runs out.

After the last pour, he’ll be on to his next project: a collaboration using crushed dessert wine grapes from Linden Vineyards and mead from Charm City Meadworks.

“I feel like everybody is in their own genre, and I don’t necessarily see it as a separate world. For me, it just makes a lot of sense to get everybody together and do things together,” he says.

“I just like the idea of mashing up different cultures and seeing how it comes out.”

The Red Hen is located at 1822 1st St. NW


 

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