Oh, cider! Often associated with not being a “proper” drink, and mistakenly disliked for not tasting enough like apple juice, this zesty, fresh drink is wildly underrated.
And very unfairly so, because it’s a great-tasting beverage for any occasion. Lucky for you, we are here to teach you all about cider, and the best ways (and places) to introduce yourself to its scene if you happen to be in London.
Not so long ago, proper cider bars were quickly disappearing all throughout the country, being overtaken by normal pubs where you could barely get your hands on this wonderful apple creation. However, thanks to current trends like craft beer, organic wine and mixology, people seem to be more and more interested in cider each day.
Originally, cider houses were meeting points for those living in the areas of the rural west bountiful with plantations. Farmers and farriers would gather in the only room to enjoy a glass of local scrumpy. While some of these authentic places still exist and can be found out in the countryside, nowadays this tradition (luckily for us) has shifted to the cities and towns. There are plenty of cider bars in London, making it easy to enjoy and celebrate cider in the heart of this city!
Cider bars 101
Cider is essentially fermented apple juice, but it is far from sweet and fruity in most scenarios. The taste of cider may seem a little odd when you first try it: the expectation of an apple flavor is strong for most people, and the surprise factor is overpowering. However, beware that the love-hate line is a fine one, and it’s very possible that you are going to fall in love with it!
Some of the varieties you might see are scrumpy cider, farmhouse cider and rough cider. The first takes its name from from the traditional way of preparing cider with windfall apples (also known as “scrumps”). This term is usually used for cider that’s considered to be too cloudy, too guileless and not mature enough by the most people. However, some cider aficionados deem that scrumpy is the finest cider out there, made from specially selected apples, fermented slowly and matured for even longer.
You might have heard that there exists a cider made out of pears, too. What many people don’t know is that a real scrumpy lover would never refer to it in any way other than “perry.” Perry is elaborated similarly to cider with a special variety of pears. It’s an excellent choice of drink if you want to mix things up!
The best way to order in a cider bar is to ask for “a pint of cider,” because the word “scrumpy” has many meanings behind it, and some people perceive it as a negative way of describing a poorly made cider.
While in most pubs you won’t get much of a choice (because there is often only one or two types of cider accessible), we’ll guide you through the spots in London that specialize in this wonderful drink. Try several types and decide for yourself which one is your favorite!
The Best Cider Bars in London
Based in Forest Gate, Hawkes started in 2012 with “a lot of hope and some green bottles.” Who would’ve known that their idea would be such a great success?
Now it’s home to many excellent types of cider, including their own trademark creations, such as Hawkes’s medium dry cider (made with champagne yeast, by the way!), Urban Orchard, Soul Trader and Graff.
In this urban cidery, you’ll find an authentic taproom, friendly staff always willing to tell you all about cider and answer all of your questions, and regular events such as new cider creations, appearances by the industry’s top connoisseurs and producers, and much more. A truly revolutionary space when it comes to scrumpy!
2. Stable Cider
Offering more than 50 kinds of top-quality cider, this bar might just be the most diverse cider bar in all of London. Based in a mind-blowingly gorgeous setting just steps away from Kew Bridge Station and a short walk from Kew Gardens, Stable offers a huge variety of ciders and perries, so guests can not just enjoy their drinks but also widen their horizons in the cider world.
However, they have even more highlights, such as live music, open-air seating and “Tuck Tuesday” (with selected meals + a drink for £10). What more could you ask for on a lovely summer evening?
3. The Cider Tap
Once a part of the gates to the Euston tube station, this impressive 19th century stone lodge is fully dedicated to cider. It is a small and cozy space where you can come and find a splendid array of tap ciders and perries, on par with a wide selection of bottled varieties coming from all over the UK and other European countries. The fun and welcoming ambience, a real oak barrel tap, and a chalkboard menu creates a unique and fun experience for guests.
4. Crown & Anchor
Last on our list is the sister bar of the famous Stoke Newington’s Jolly Butchers. Crown & Anchor in Covent Garden does not specialize exclusively in ciders, but it offers a good offering of scumpies and perries. With 25 taps behind the bar, it’s hard to pass this place up.
The narrow, elongated space gets pretty full if it’s a busy night, but it’s a fun environment indeed, where it feels natural to become one with the crowd. Escape the busy streets surrounding Brixton station here to enjoy some rare cider varieties, such as East Lothian’s Thistly Cross, Herefordshire’s Celtic Marches and Devon Scrumpy.