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C is also for cocktail, which you can make a boozy-cosy night of if you know how a cider blends with different liquors. And C is for Calvados, a French apple brandy with cider distilled twice over to reach a potent 40% concentration. Wait now, another C would take you down a lane called cider liqueur, at the end of which you would bump into Winter Jack, which is good ole Mr Daniel’s with apple cider liqueur and spices that smell of Christmas.

But it all starts with the simplest C – the sparkling amber fermented apple juice called Cider. Apple Cider is yet to make headlines in India, but it has existed as a local drink (and in the form of vinegar) in apple-rich Himachal for years. It’s produced in small batches using fresh apples and since 2007 it has also been exported to nearby states.

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In the world list of cider-drinking nations though, India doesn’t even make an appearance towards the bottom end. As far as apples go, there’s almost too many of them growing in the Himalayas, but despite Himachal’s best efforts the trend never went beyond mild interest outside the state. What clinched the deal, firmly placing cider as a flavour of choice especially amongst the ladies, are the microbreweries that are changing India’s map of spirits today, one city at a time.

Amongst the oldest of these life-saving breweries is Doolally, which started out of Pune but has now proceeded to change the drinking habits of more than a few Mumbaiites. One of their innovations is Mango Cider, brewed using Kesar Mangoes from Gujarat for a dash of rather welcome irony.

They’ve got a special brew for the holiday season ahead as well. It’s called Hot Mulled Cider, and it comes with an extra shot of aged rum (classic Old Monk) served piping hot (60º Celsius) spiced with nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and dried orange peel. They say it’s very hot, very potent, and very limited.

Oliver Schauf, Co-Founder and Brewmaster at Doolally, puts it like this: “As the last flush of the ‘October heat’ gives way to the first winter chills, we brewers have put in some extra tender loving care to create some of the most special seasonal brews – Christmas beers and winter warmers. You can pair this warm mulled cider with a good quality barbecue, grilled Bratwurst sausages and juicy tandoori kebabs. Merry Christmas and a happy new beer!”

For those of you not located anywhere close to Doolally, get your hands on a bottle of HPMC cider from Himachal to try this experiment at home and you might just enter 2017 minus a hangover. C for yourself!

Image: Hot mulled cider from Doolally; Credit Nikhil Ghorpade

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