Thirsty? Take your pick of fall beverages

‘Tis the season for costumes, haunted houses and apple picking — but what’s an appropriate beverage for the fall season?

If beer isn’t your taste and you don’t want to stick to soda, you’re in luck: hard ciders have slowly made a comeback in Buffalo in recent years.

“It’s kind of a national trend, and Buffalo is behind a little bit,” Chateau Buffalo owner Carl Schmitter said.

According to the St. Louis Post, although hard cider sales account for less than 1 percent of U.S. beer sales, it grew 85 percent from 2011 to 2012.

The Buffalo News listed Chateau Buffalo and McKenzie’s Hard Cider as two of the New York State’s four noteworthy cider makers, while Elmwood Avenue’s Village Beer Merchant has seen a 10-percent increase in sales of hard ciders in the last two years.

Chateau Buffalo makes its own line of ciders called “Dancing Buffalo.” Each variety has its own dance associated with it. For example, “Polka” is a dry cider; “Mambo” is sweet, while “Promenade” is a dry, sparkling cider. Chateau Buffalo also has its own spiced, mulled cider for Thanksgiving.

“We make our ciders from all locally grown apples,” Schmitter said. “We use heritage apples, older varieties that may not necessarily be used for eating. We use apples that are maybe more sour, tart or bitter. It makes for a more interesting beverage than really sweet-eating apples.”

Chateau Buffalo also carries a variety of wines, including a cider ice wine, which Schmitter refers to as a “dessert wine.” Its most popular wine during the fall season is “999 Broadway Red,” a sweet red wine named for the Broadway Market.

“Dancing Buffalo” ciders can be bought at Chateau Buffalo in the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, a “hidden gem” of the city. They are also available on tap at Gene McCarthy’s Tavern on Hamburg Street, Pizza Plant’s two locations on Main Street or Transit Road in Williamsville and Pano’s on Elmwood Avenue.

McKenzie’s Hard Cider is another locally owned product that is expanding rapidly throughout the nation. Founder Lenny Ciolek spent 35 years in the beverage business and many of those years were spent as an executive of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. With many years of experience, Ciolek noticed trends shifting to cider with limited competition.

McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve, dubbed “apple pie in a glass,” is a top-rated cider on Mulled and seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon, it’s only sold during fall and winter months. In the spring and summer, “Lazy Lemon” replaces the seasonal reserve cider. Despite the seasonal reserve’s critical acclaim, Ciolek says the black cherry cider is still most popular.

Ciolek said he is planning to introduce two more flavors for next year, but isn’t divulging on what they’ll be.

“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” he said.

McKenzie’s is sold at local grocery stores, including Tops and Wegmans, as well as Consumer’s Beverages, Sunoco gas stations and Premier Wine and Liquor.

As of right now, McKenzie’s is sold in 13 states. Ciolek hopes to expand to 16 states by 2014 and 25 states by the end of 2016.

Those who don’t care for cider can check out the pumpkin beer scene. Southern-Tier Pumpking and Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale are found in most Buffalo bars and restaurants.

And for those who want to be fancier, you can always switch over to the hard stuff. has a full database of seasonal, dessert-like mixed drinks for people that prefer hard liquors and wines.

With a mixture of four different wines, brandy and vodka, Autumn Punch is likely to spike the interest of any party. Autumn Sangria is a blend of red wine and three different fall fruits adding a twist to any favorite wine. The Autumn Spritzer is also an easy recipe, as champagne is its only source of alcohol.

Although the Internet is a reliable source for drink ideas, there are many sources for beverages locally, like McKenzie’s and Chateau Buffalo.

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