There’s a philosophical bent to Soham Bhatt’s cider making, one the architect behind Artifact Cider Project has developed since starting the company in 2014.
“What we’re about is trying to get people to identify cider as part of the culture of the Northeast, and something that’s fundamental to it,” Bhatt says in a recent phone conversation. “When cider was starting its resurgence, that focus was always on the past. And we’ve taken things from the past and modernized them.
“Cider doesn’t have to be a throwback. It should be a product of today and reflective of the people who are here.”
That’s a bit of an evolution from when I last talked to Bhatt, who in 2016 was poking around schoolyards in Roxbury on the hunt for antique apples to turn into a cider people drank more than a century ago. Artifact still makes that Roxbury Russet cider annually, but in recent years has turned to a more modern product line, with ciders like Magic Hour and Feels Like Home built more around moods than premodernity. The company’s two tap rooms, in Florence and Cambridge, showcase both the good stuff that comes from the orchards and the drinks’ place in everyday life.
It was out of some pandemic daydreaming that Artifact’s new cider, Slow Down, was born.
“The vision I kept having in my head was the rocky coast in Maine,” says Bhatt, describing his May doldrums during lockdown. “There’s a kind of starkness to it, that feeling where it might be warm outside but the water’s so cold up there that you still get that refreshing breeze.
“That sense memory just kept coming back in my head. I wanted to make a cider that felt like that.”
Since Maine was inaccessible at the time, Bhatt went about trying to turn his imagined road tripping into a drink that could transport both himself and his customers. McIntosh apples, spontaneously fermenting with indigenous yeast (think: natural wine), provided the perfect canvas.
“It was going in that direction already,” says Bhatt. “So we blended up a cider that had those notes of minerality, freshness; a little bit of citrus or fruit on the nose, but not juicy or weighty on the palate, to kind of seal that starkness.”
Slow Down is a cider meant for the time before a meal. And because it mimics the minerality of a dry white wine, oysters make an especially good pairing. To that end, Artifact partnered with Maine’s Mook Sea Farm on a kit that includes a 4-pack of cider, oyster knife, and a discount code to purchase some Moondancers or Mookie Blues directly from the oyster farm.
You can order Slow Down to be shipped directly from Artifact’s website, or find the cider in stores throughout the Northeast.