By Christopher Matthews
If New York City had an official apple — and some folks are indeed working on this — it should be the heirloom Newtown Pippin variety. And now, thanks to the award-winning, New York City-based Original Sin Cider, you can sample this historic apple the “hard” way, in liquid form, as a single heirloom varietal cider.
First harvested in 1740 in Newtown Village (now Broadway and 45th Ave in Elmhurst, Queens), the Newtown Pippin, the only truly famous apple to come out of present-day New York City, quickly became a sensation. Devoted fans among America’s Founding Fathers included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who planted scions on their own estates), and Benjamin Franklin, who had Newtown Pippins shipped to him in London in 1759. England’s Queen Victoria became so enamored of it that she had the British import duty on the apple lifted in 1838.
To remind, (hard) apple cider was the primary potation of Colonial America, and then of the young Republic, up until the latter part of the 19th century. Most apples were usually too bitter to eat, and were anyways destined for the cider mill. The whole “apple a day” thing was a temperance movement-inspired ploy to discourage cider production.
But grown from seed, the apple has remarkable mutation abilities, and gives rise to the occasional, delicious gem, which is then propagated via grafting. The Newtown Pippin was one such apple, both excellent for eating, and a stellar addition to cider, because of its copious natural sugars and acidity. Back in the day, ciders were always blends, so it’s unlikely the Newtown Pippin was enjoyed as a varietal beverage.
But it would have been. With fresh apple and slight yeasty aromas (from the Champagne yeast used in fermentation), the Original Sin Newtown Pippin Hard Cider is gently sparkling, with tart green apple and citric notes on a whistle clean, dry finish. Highly drinkable, the cider’s slight effervescence and refreshing acidity also make it a great food companion, in particular for spicy Asian fare and sushi. And, for the holidays, it would be a festive, lower alcohol (6.7% ABV) adult beverage that has as much antioxidants, and even more phenolic compounds than red wine. Who knew? Perhaps a cider a day…
In true “upstate-downtown” fashion, founder and president Gidon Coll, who operates Original Sin (now active in 30 states) out of Manhattan, learned the cider craft in upstate New York. Now, he is planting an orchard, featuring 22 heirloom, cider, modern and experimental apple varieties on his family’s farm in Columbia County, NY.
Note to Mayor Bloomberg: the Newtown Pippin should be declared the Big Apple’s official apple, even if it’s green!