Harvest Moon’s doughnuts and fresh-picked apples are known countywide—now comes a line of hard ciders.
When life gives you apples, make (hard) cider. Good idea, unless you don’t like the stuff, and the Covino brothers of Brewster were never big fans. Awkward, since they own an orchard, but Alex, Kevin, and Ben Covino let Teddy Roosevelt be their guide. His words, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” inspired them to establish Hardscrabble Cider at their family’s Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard in North Salem.
“It became our quest,” Alex Covino says, “to make cider worth drinking.” The phrase stuck, becoming the slogan for their impressive collection of six varieties, available in the orchard’s tasting room.
So, how to reinvent hard cider, a drink they considered “too sweet” or “lacking real apple flavor?” The Covinos, each with a degree in horticulture, experimented for years before perfecting a method using some 10 varieties of apples and no extra sugar. Instead, fresh cider is added after fermentation, to punch up the taste and to ensure the end result isn’t too dry. Pleased with their standard varieties, the brothers got creative, flavoring other blends with cranberries, peaches, strawberries, and even hops, to appeal to beer drinkers, Alex says. The newest entry is called Old Hickory, after President Andrew Jackson, and boasts higher alcohol content than the rest. A nod to cider’s past in this country, Hardscrabble Cider has an Americana theme (Betsy Ross’ flag appears on one label); future products will be named after historic figures.
The brothers Covino are now all in, recently planting more than 1,000 cider-variety apple trees. However, mass-production is not a goal. They will stick with their “one-at-a-time” bottling method. “It means a lot that everything was done by hand,” says Alex, “in that we filled the liquid, capped it and put the label on.”
Teddy would be proud.
Harvest Moon Orchard, with a new outdoor bar and weekend fall festivals, is a must this season—even if you think you don’t like cider.