Brett Ottolenghi’s been holding out on us! The owner of Artisanal Foods on East Sunset Road and purveyor of gourmet ingredients keeps Las Vegas’ pro and home chefs in truffles, foie gras and jamón Ibérico de bellota. But he has also very recently and very quietly begun distributing cans and kegs of his family’s apple cider to restaurants and bars around town—five varieties, all of which are raw, natural and low in calories.
There’s no shortage of similarly hipsterific products out in the market, all of them straining for an air of homey authenticity and a share of your imbibable discretionary income. But Jack’s Hard Cider(JacksHardCider.com) is the real deal, named for Ottolenghi’s grandfather, Jack Hauser, who started working for Musselman Foods in 1936 and later served as its president from 1944-1979. It was Jack who also planted the family’s own apple orchards in the 1940s, but in the 1980s, the production-apple market soured. “Chinese apple juice concentrate and apple products took [over] the U.S. market for production apples,” Ottolenghi says. And it’s not like the family could suddenly redirect its apples to supermarkets. “Production apples are grown with few sprays, and don’t look as perfect as most fresh fruit in grocery stores. For 20 years we operated the orchard at a loss.” It was then that Ottolenghi proposed using the apples for cider.
That was nine years ago. For the last seven, Jack’s has been produced and canned at the family’s Hauser Estate Winery, just eight miles west of Historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, from apples native to Adams County. It took another five years for Ottolenghi to obtain a wholesale liquor license and bring the cider to Nevada. “I started the paperwork in 2009,” he says. “And that was with a consultant.”
The flagship, Jack’s Hard Cider, is sharply dry at 100 calories and 5.5 percent alcohol. I loved it before dinner, in place of a dry white wine or aperitif to whet the appetite. Just a touch sweeter and rounder was the Helen’s Blend ($6 at Atomic Liquors) at 180 calories and 5 percent, and named for Ottolenghi’s grandmother. There are also three seasonal varieties: a single-orchard label, one fermented with estate-grown peaches and a shandy, brewed with coriander, bitter and sweet orange peel and lemon.
The only question is, can Jack’s keep up with demand? The brand currently counts its production in just thousands of gallons per year—a drop in the apple bucket compared with other ciders. Ottolenghi doesn’t seem too worried: “It’s a good problem to have.”