If you’re looking for cider in Orlando with the complexities of wine but the drinkability of beer, you’ll enjoy the drier offerings at these small Central Florida cideries. Quantum Leap Winery and Tuffy’s Bottle Shop & Lounge take cider seriously, and so does Edible Orlando contributor John Graham.
by John Graham, photo by Benevolence Photography
Quantum Leap Winery, 1312 Wilfred Drive, Orlando
Quantum Leap has been creating environmentally conscious wine in the Mills50 neighborhood since 2012. The wines are fermented and blended here in Orlando, but the grape juice comes from around the world. Adding cider was a logical way to keep busy between the two big grape seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres.
“I’ll be honest,” says Matt Uva, Quantum Leap sales manager. “It started hanging out at [nearby Ten10 Brewing] and the guys saying, ‘You should make cider. We’d buy it.’“ In 2016, the first year for Pedaler’s Hard Cider, Quantum Leap won Best Florida Cider from the Florida Brewer’s Guild.
Just as Quantum Leap brings in grape juice for wines, Florida cider is made with apple juice concentrate from Michigan or Italy or South Africa. Concentrate is a greener choice with a smaller carbon footprint. Juice would require multiple tanker trucks, but concentrate comes in on pallets.
Quantum Leap uses champagne yeast for Pedaler’s, producing a dry cider that can be tweaked at the end with unfermented cider as needed. “I take a winemaker approach and try to not make it too sweet,” says Norm Saley, Quantum Leap winemaker and cidermaker. “We like that acidity on the back end.”
Saley takes wine very seriously, but cider lets him stretch and play. He’s whipped up Pedaler’s Mango Mimosa Cider, Pedaler’s Mango Kush, coffee cider, bourbon barrel-aged cider and more. “I literally had a dream about grade school and eating apple slices with peanut butter,” he says. The next day, work started on a peanut-flavored cider. “These guys were looking at me like I was crazy and next thing you know, they’re trying it and saying it’s good.”
Quantum Leap only bottles cider occasionally, so the best bet to try various Pedaler’s ciders is the on-site tasting room, 1,800 square feet with a cork floor right next to where wines and ciders are being made. If staff have time, they’ll even give you a free tour, but calling ahead couldn’t hurt.
Other locations around Central Florida with Pedaler’s Hard Cider on tap include neighbor Ten10 Brewing, Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs, Castle Church Brewing Community on Hoffner, Market on South and Suncreek Brewery in Clermont.
Tuffy’s Bottle Shop & Lounge, 200 S. Myrtle Ave., Sanford
Tuffy’s first got into cider on a technicality. Co-owner Dan St. Pierre is also a partner in DeBary’s Central 28 Beer Company. A quirk in Florida liquor laws meant it would be much easier to open Tuffy’s if that location also produced something. Central 28 assistant brewer Donald Rhodus made cider at home for years, so it just made sense.
“Maybe we start with 10 or 20 gallons a month and see how it goes,” St. Pierre says. “We realized a lot of buzz was coming, more than just another cocktail bar.” So Tuffy’s bought bigger equipment and sold 120 gallons of cider in the first three days.
Rhodus was first inspired to make cider when he couldn’t find tart and sometimes funky Spanish “sidra” in the U.S. “Everything I make is dry, European-style ciders,” he says. Bringing in apple juice from Michigan and the Northeast, Rhodus likes to use beer yeast strains and doesn’t sweeten on the back end. In fact, Tuffy’s original cider is flavored with isomerized (heated) hops to add a bit of bitterness.
Tuffy’s biggest–selling cider has become Jamaica Droop Noir—flavored with hibiscus (like a “Jamaica” agua fresca) and black cherry. Always willing to try new ingredients, friends brought Rhodus strawberry guava fruit from a tree in their yard. Not stopping there, he added habanero pepper before turning out a new cider.
Tuffy’s has a huge space in Downtown Sanford, 9,000 square feet inside with about the same in an outdoor courtyard. Built as a mechanic shop in the late 1920s and most recently serving as a doggie daycare, Tuffy’s has plans to add a venue for live bands and that bottle shop the name promises, and even rent out space to a fully themed tiki bar.