Smitten by cider, Patti Wilcox and Casey Vitti found themselves at a loss for words for the drink. The couple was impassioned to make a cider that left consumers feeling the same — awestruck, and cofounded Awestruck Cider in Walton, New York, as a result.
“We’re making sure that we’re making something that’s a flavor experience that adds to what’s already on the market, that grows the repertoire,” Wilcox says.
With three main ciders on the docket, the ciders play around with a variety of flavors like lavender ,hops, hibiscus and ginger, to name a few. They’re also just now launching a new cider called Empire Cider, focusing on the Empire variety of apples grown on the East Coast.
For Empire, Awestruck ferments a variety of apples and take three separate fermentations with three separate yeasts to still produce the complex wine flavor ciders have. Then, they back-sweeten with nothing but the fresh-squeezed juice of Empire apples.
“It has that really great character of biting into a crisp cool Empire apple, but then it still has the complex base to carry it through,” Wilcox says. “I feel like a consumer wants to know more about hard cider, but we need to give them a leg up. We need to help them out and say, ‘well this is a varietal you might recognize.’”
Although the Empire Cider isn’t bottled quite yet, but can be found at select local establishments throughout New York and New Jersey, while the staple ciders can be found bottled and on tap down the East Coast.
The mainstay cider is the Hibiscus Ginger. The couple’s love of travel sparked the idea for this pink-hued sipper, with the ambition to be provocative of a place, memory or story. “I think of [it] as a tropical island, or even a warm porch patio with a light breeze,” Wilcox says. “The ginger just adds to the mouthfeel. We want to make it engaging on many levels.”
Using dessert apples for the base of the ciders, Wilcox says they wanted to use what was accessible to them. “We sort of said let’s just take what we’ve got and do something amazing and new with it,” she says. “Let’s not even try to recreate what’s already been done. Let’s jazz it up a little bit in a new way.”
The Lavender Hops cider uses three different types of hops (Citra, Centennial and Cascade) as well as lavender. Another standard offering is the Eastern Dry cider which is currently in the process of reformulation to be an oaked dry cider.
“I love the oak feel on a really tannic cider,” Wilcox says. “We didn’t want to hunt down heirloom apples because there’s already a lot of people doing amazing things with that, and we had this opportunity to try something totally new, so we were like, ‘let’s do oak.’”
Awestruck also does limited edition keg releases, such as a sake cider last winter and a barrel-aged pumpkin cider last October. The couple is currently working on making a Belgian-style sour “Scrumpsch,” as well as a cherry version.
With the cidery’s two year anniversary this month, Wilcox and Vitti have begun to make trips abroad to spread their American cider oversea.
“American cider has a place in a global context,” Wilcox says. “I think we’re, just like American craft beers, world renowned. I think there’s definitely going to be a similar market for American craft cider. That’s a big goal of ours.”