There’s no arguing the fact that both beer and wine are equally popular in the U.S. You’ll find these two alcoholic beverages in grocery stores, bodegas, liquor stores and specialty shops. Americans are obsessed with both fine wines and budget ones.

But what about beer’s and wine’s other, more exotic relative — hard cider? A beverage that has been around for just as long as its fruity and hoppy cousins?

Lately, we’ve been seeing a resurgence of cider, and we’re not surprised. This light and fruity alcoholic beverage is just as tasty and versatile as both beer and wine. And lucky for you, we’re going to give you the skinny on how to buy it, drink it and pair it with food.

A History of Cider

We’ve been drinking hard cider for generations. The earliest record of a cider-like beverage dates back to 1300 BCE. Cider is strikingly similar to mead, which was consumed at King Midas’s funeral (and remnants of it were found in his tomb). It eventually became popular in areas of the world that were home to large apple orchards. The British have a long and storied history with cider.

In America, cider took a bit of a turn for the worst. The influx of German immigrants meant that beer became a more popular alcoholic drink of choice. It was also cheaper to grow barley than apples. What was once one of the most popular alcoholic beverages started waning in popularity. (Though the country did see a resurgence of its popularity during Prohibition.)

Cider Today: A Renaissance

So, what happened? Obviously, cider is getting a second-coming, right? It’s sold in nearly every grocery store. There’s one tap devoted to this liquid gold at many bars around the U.S.

Yet it was the thing that killed cider that restored its popularity — beer.

The resurgence of small-batch beer brewing (microbrewing) led to curiosity about cider. Home brewers who didn’t have the patience for beer started dabbling in cider.

Why Cider?

A lot of people choose cider over wine because it traditionally has a lower alcohol content (though, not all cider has a lower alcohol content, so choose wisely). It has a light but complex flavor. You’ll find still and sparking ciders. You can pair it with food.

Plus, it’s made from apples, which makes it healthy, right?

All joking aside, hard cider does contain vitamin C and antioxidants. It’s also a gluten-free beverage, so it’s a safe alternative to beer for those who suffer from celiacs disease. Plus, it just tastes good. It’s refreshing and most ciders don’t have much of an aftertaste — which is good news for people who traditionally don’t enjoy the aftertaste of wine or beer.

How Is Cider Made?

Cider, beer and wine share some similarities. They are all products of fermentation and utilize yeast to help that process do its magic. They are all alcoholic beverages. They can be paired with food.

Yet, the comparisons between wine, beer and cider are short-lived. While many connoisseurs like to compare these three beverages, cider and wine tend to share more similarities than cider and beer. Beer contains water, yeast, hops and barley — while cider usually contains apples and yeast.

Hard cider is made by pressing fresh apples or pears through a cider press and fermenting the juice with yeast. It is then filtered, blended and combined with ingredients to enhance the flavor. Finally, it’s bottled.

Choosing a Fine Cider

When choosing a fine cider, you’ll want to consider a few factors. What flavor profiles do you want to taste? What price are you willing to pay? What type of fruits do you want in your cider?

Choosing a fine cider can be just as tricky as choosing a wine. You’ll want to start by tasting a few ciders and making note of the ones you like best.

Your taste in wine might also help shed some light on your taste in cider. Do you typically enjoy dry or sweet wines? Do you enjoy bubbly wines? What type of food will you serve with your cider? Have you tasted any ciders you’ve enjoyed in the past? What producer makes your favorite cider?

How to Serve Fine Cider

Serving fine cider isn’t that different from serving fine wine. You’ll want to chill a cider that isn’t tannic and pour it in a white wineglass to ensure it stays cold. If you’re serving several ciders, allow your guest to taste the different options before serving.

Luckily, cider keeps longer than wine. Should you not finish a bottle of cider by the end of the night, pop a cork or wine stopper in the bottle and save for up to one week.