Ice cider tasting in Montérégie

May 4, 2022

If you want to get to know a new city or a new country, start by exploring the local food scene. Because I’m pursuing a degree in food studies from the Université du Québec à Montréal, I have a desire to deep-dive into Québec culinary culture, so let’s go!

I will take you through Montérégie as we tour the countryside and sample a drink the region is famous for: ice cider.

Drinking too much alcohol can damage your health. Please drink responsibly.

The Montérégie region

Montérégie, one of the 17 regions in the province of Québec, is home to several urban agglomerations that you will most likely hear about, including Longueuil, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Brossard, Saint-Hyacinthe, and Châteauguay.

With the abundance of food being grown there, Montérégie has been dubbed “Québec’s pantry”—and rightfully so, since 86% of its land area is dedicated to agriculture and the region accounts for 35% of the province’s agricultural production.

For a project we had to do as part of my Food Studies program, a friend of mine and I went on a road trip to Rougemont, a town where apples—and apple ice cider—reign supreme.

What exactly is ice cider?

Québec ice cider is the product of two things: Québec apples and the province’s ice-cold winters.

Ice cider is generally made from McIntosh, Spartan and Cortland apples, but other, less common varieties, like Golden Russet, Honeycrisp or Geneva can also be used. You can find many of those varieties, including Spartan and McIntosh, in various supermarkets and small grocery stores across Montréal. Don’t miss your chance to take a bite before they’re turned into cider!

There are two methods for making ice cider: cryoconcentration and cryoextraction. Once the apples are pressed using one of the two processes, the apple must is fermented into ice cider.

Québec ice cider is similar to a dessert wine.

Where can you find ice cider?

Ice cider is easy to come by. All you have to do is pop into an SAQ store in Montréal. The stores carry ice ciders from different producers using different blends that give each cider its rich flavour and unique quality. Alternatively, you can visit an orchard and buy your ice cider directly from the producer.

Ice cider is quite expensive, though. If you want to treat yourself to this sweet drink, you can expect to pay at least $15 for a 375 ml bottle.

When to drink it and what to pair it with?

Ice cider is the perfect alcoholic drink for those with a sweet tooth. However, it also pairs very well with savoury foods and Québec dishes, not to mention foie gras, seafood, apple pie, cheesecake and cheddar.

Traditionally, ice cider is served over a good meal or on special occasions and is best enjoyed in good company. Actually, almost everything in Québec cuisine is best enjoyed in a warm, friendly atmosphere. It’s part of what makes it special.

When I visited Montérégie, I took the opportunity to buy a few bottles of cider, including a bottle of rosé ice cider. Just to give you an idea, here’s what we drank it with over the holiday season.

Our main course was a scallop, leek and mushroom gratin topped with cheese and a bit of cream. The ice cider went very well with that. For dessert, I had a key lime pie (a southeastern U.S. take on cheesecake), and the acidity of the limes perfectly complemented the intense sweetness of the cider. Divine!

Ice cider is a distinctive Québec drink that makes a great gift for any host or visitor who wants to “get a taste” of Québec. Since it was first developed 30 years ago, Québec ice cider has gained international recognition. Today, French cider producers, for example, come to Montérégie to learn the art of making ice cider.

Our trip to Rougemont was a great opportunity to explore a town where everything revolves around apples and to meet people who are passionate about what they do. The producers we talked to were happy to share their story and their favourite dishes and ciders.

Even as temperatures drop in winter, you can still venture outside of Montréal. Communauto is an excellent option if you’re looking to visit the surroundings without breaking the bank. It’s what we did for our student project and we got the chance to meet the producers, who always welcomed us with open arms. The experience, even though it was primarily school-related, gave me a better picture of my host country. I love living in a vibrant city like Montréal. But between work, classes, outings with friends, and cultural activities in the city, I feel like you can quickly become stuck in a routine. A trip out of town helps put things into perspective. It offers a glimpse into a world that is so different from your home country and into a way of life that is different from what you see in cosmopolitan Montréal.

The Cider Route

The Cider Route is a delicious way to explore places around Montréal. If you feel like driving into Montérégie and tasting the gourmet goodness it has to offer, consider travelling the Cider Route. The 140 km route is dotted with nine cideries—that’s nine stops where you can pull up and chat with local producers who love to share their passion.

This is your best chance to sample the five types of cider produced in Québec: rosé cider, sparkling cider, flat cider, fire cider, and, of course, ice cider.

My first few months here have been pretty busy (with moving, settling in, and figuring out how classes work), but now that all the excitement is wearing off and that winter is almost over, I plan to rent a car and head along the Cider Route myself. I can’t wait to take in the countryside, learn new things, and immerse myself in the heart of nature, only a few hours away from Montréal.

If you prefer more environmentally friendly transportation options, you can bike along some sections of the route, around Rougemont, for example.

Ice cider has come to be known internationally as a product that is part of Québec’s food heritage. If you decide to make Montréal your next study destination, I suggest you get to know your new home by learning more about what and where locals eat. It’s a great way to experience Québec culture and meet interesting people.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Montréal International.