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Granny Smith spirits

High-end aperitifs and simple ciders let you drink in the fall apple harvest

By Mark Andel

Not up for making the haul out to an orchard this fall? Not to worry. From a sparkling hard cider to German schnapps, there are plenty of fresh ways to get your autumn apple fix.

Pommeau de Normandie, $4
Served in a sherry glass at The Artful Dodger, Pommeau is considered an aperitif. It's a blend of Calvados--a brandy distilled from hard cider--and apple juice that's aged for a year and a half in oak barrels. The color is an amazing amber-red, and the taste is like a carnival candied apple with notes of honey and prunes at the finish.

Calvados Pomme Prisionniere, $18
The asking price may seem steep, but when you consider that a bottle of this Calvados can fetch more than $100, a generous snifter of this astonishing drink at Le Colonial is reasonably priced. The name, "captive apple," refers to the whole Boskop apple trapped inside the bottle. The apple is stuck inside the bottle when it's small and still on the branch. That helps explain its rarity--and the price.

Drouin Cidre Du Pays D'Auge, $20
Compared with many sweet hard ciders, this sparkling version is extra dry, with a light apple color and a crisp finish. It's available by the bottle only at Cafe Matou. Chef Charles Socher recommends it with his stuffed veal breast, braised with Calvados and apple cider.

Berentzen Apfel Korn, $5.50
Unlike most face-scrunching schnapps shots that burn your throat and make your eyes water, Apfel Korn is a smooth apple liqueur that goes well with a beer or alone on the rocks. It lacks the fire of Calvados, but at 40 proof, it's a fairly potent autumnal aperitif. Try it at Glunz Bavarian House, the newest German restaurant to hit Lincoln Square.

Magners, $6.25
If you're more of a hard cider purist, go to Fado Irish Pub to try this sturdy version, which ranks as the most popular brand in Ireland. Magners goes well with bangers and beans, as well as boxties (Irish potato pancakes). Many are drawn to Magners because it's heavily carbonated and a touch on the sour side. 100 W. Grand Ave. 312-836-0066.

Mark Andel is a metromix special contributor.