Drinks

Jackson Cannon Brings New England Cider Week to Boston

The Hawthorne owner is bringing a series of apple events to his restaurants from October 24-30.
Photos provided by New England Cider Week

Photos provided by New England Cider Week

Through his years as a vanguard Boston bartender, Jackson Cannon has learned a lot about the history of drink. Always attentive to details, his latest obsession has been New England cider.

“For me, the purpose behind the purpose is recognizing the difference between just the growth of cider the category, and the profound, heritage history of noble New England cider production,” Cannon says.

Enter the inaugural New England Cider Week, coming up October 24-30: a wide-ranging series of events at the venues he operates with his partners, including the Hawthorne, Branch Line (which also just introduced its 2017 cider menu), and Row 34.

“Mostly we like to party, and we like to drink cider,” he adds.

But that part about heritage is big.

“We think there’s a real reason, and need, and mission to celebrate cider with a regional perspective,” Cannon says.

Cannon has delved into New England apple-growing and cider-making history with cider makers in Massachusetts, Vermont, and beyond, like Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders, David Dolginow of Shacksbury, and Soham Bhatt of Artifact, he explains.

“There’s this common thread, this idea of ‘heritage cider,'” Cannon continues, defining heirloom varieties that spread around the region, unmanaged, during the 17th century. During the 18th century, New Englanders started to cultivate these fruits into “really fine exemplars of the best kind of bittersweet and sweet apples for making ciders,” he says.

“So, there are some producers who are really interested in making what should be New England wine, from apples, in the 21st century, but doing it with the understanding that there’s a relationship between the biology and the style of production that’s as rich as the Spanish tradition, as rich as the British tradition, as rich as the French tradition—its own noble, rightful, legitimate, worldwide expression of cider as it comes out of New England.”

Eden Specialty Ciders in the Northeast Kingdom, VT

Eden Specialty Ciders in the Northeast Kingdom, VT. / Photos provided by New England Cider Week

Photos provided by New England Cider Week

Photos provided by New England Cider Week

During Cider Week, the most educational opportunity will be a Wednesday afternoon “fireside chat,” moderated by Cannon at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston, with the producers of Artifact, Eden, and Shacksbury. The other events range from a bocce party at Branch Line, to Row 34 tap takeovers, a cider pairing brunch at Les Sablons, and a raucous Scrumpfest at the Hawthorne (“scrumpy” describes a traditional, English style of “party” cider).

Cannon just wanted to put New England Cider Week on the calendar this year, he says, but he hopes venues outside his group will be interested in participating in the future.

It’s already catching on: Drink’s general manager, Ezra Star, promoted the upcoming Cider Week during a cider-pairing dinner her bar hosted last week, Cannon says. And today, Eden, Farnum Hill (N.H.), and Stormalong (Mass.) announced a first-of-its-kind mixed cider four-pack called the Cider-Grown New England Collaboration. “There is still a lot of education needed for consumers to understand these more cider-specific apples and the ciders that can be made from them,” says Stormalong founder and cider maker Shannon Edgar in a press release. “This collaboration is a great introduction to drier ciders created with apples high in tannins and acidity.”

Of course, it’s also true that fall is an appropriate time to enjoy cider. With Cider Week, Cannon just wanted to make sure his restaurants observed that.

“I don’t have a plan [for the future of Cider Week],” he says, “but I do have a mission.”

Check out the full lineup of New England Cider Week events more information at neciderweek.com.

(L to R) Cider Maker Garrett Huber, Row 34 Boston sous chef Ally Bayless, Les Sablons head of operations Molly Woodhouse, Orchard Manager Ben Applegate, New England Cider Week founder Jackson Cannon, ICOB Burlington wine director Laura Staley, ICOB Boston GM Ricky Czachor, and Eden Specialty Ciders owner Eleanor Leger. / Photos provided by New England Cider Week


Jacqueline Cain Associate Food Editor at Boston Magazine jcain@bostonmagazine.com