Apple cider can take many forms. Hot or cold, still or sparkling, hard or soft — all of these words can and have been used to describe the beverage. And though they may vary in flavour, temperature, effervescence, and alcohol content, all of these ciders have one very important thing in common: they all taste really, really good with ice cream. (I mean, they’re also all apple-based, but that’s a given.)
Cider floats are — like all floats — easy to execute. You put a couple of scoops of ice cream in a glass, you pour your beverage in that same glass, you enjoy. There are, however, some tweaks and mods you can make.
Pressed apple cider can be served cold, but I’m of the opinion that cold floats need bubbles. You have two main options here: hard or non-alcoholic. For the sober crowd (and the children), classic, sparkling Martinelli’s makes an outstanding two-ingredient float — it has the precise level of acidity required to perfectly balance the richness of vanilla ice cream. If you go the Martinelli’s route, stick to the original flavour and add nothing but full-fat French vanilla (though a case could be made for custard).
If you want a hard cider, stay within the apple family. Now is not the time for pineapple or raspberry or anything like that. Plain apple is good, but try some spiced varieties if you can find them, and toss in anything that boasts ginger as an ingredient. I snagged this can of “Baked Apple” cider today, and it delivers exactly what was promised. (And, though I wouldn’t choose it for my float, they do make pumpkin cider now, and I’ll support your journey if your fall agenda dictates such.)
Some like it hot
If you want something a little warmer, both in flavour and temperature, consider pairing hot spiced cider with a spiced ice cream.
You can add mulling spices (cloves, cinnamon, star anise, strips of citrus zest) to plain cider, or you can buy it pre-spiced and heat and serve. For spiking, Applejack is an obvious, apple-forward choice, but you can branch out with pear brandy or try a shot of bourbon if you want to temper the fruity flavours.
Finish it off
Though a cinnamon stick may look pretty, it really just gets in the way when you’re trying to consume your beverage. Powdered cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg are two classic choices to finish off your hot or cold float, or you could use Chinese five spice, which is the spice blend pumpkin spice would be if it wasn’t so cowardly.