Dead drunk: Couple’s ‘immortal’ cider made with apples grown in Green-Wood Cemetery

Dead drunk: Couple’s ‘immortal’ cider made with apples grown in Green-Wood Cemetery
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It’s a taste of the other cider!

An entrepreneurial Greenwood Heights couple is using apples grown in Brooklyn’s biggest graveyard to produce a hard cider that they say is to die for.

“It’s delicious,” said Jeremy Hammond, one half of the fruit-fermenting outfit. “It’s delicate, it’s interesting, and it’s quite unique from anything else we’ve made.”

Hammond and his “partner in life and cider,” Joy Doumis, started turning Green-Wood Cemetery’s apples into hooch in 2015, he said, after he spotted a fruit-bearing tree near the grave of inventor Samuel Morse — the man who famously thought up the telegraph and Morse Code — and reached out to burial-ground leaders about using the produce to make booze.

“We thought they’d be super conservative about it, but they called us like two hours after we contacted them,” Hammond said. “It was great.”

The duo forages for fruit hanging from trees that grow naturally on the necropolis’s sprawling campus, then hauls their harvest back to their 23rd Street home, where they produce their libation, he said.

And the twosome’s Malus Immortalis cider is far more sophisticated than the sugary varieties bartenders typically serve at your local dive, according to Hammond, who described his sparkling blend as dry and elegant — much like the graveyard its apples are plucked from.

“We wanted to make something that was respectful of where it came from,” he said. “It’s something you’d pour in a Champagne flute, not a pint glass.”

Hammond — a cider-making hobbyist who with Doumis ferments other home brews using apples grown outside the city — said Green-Wood Cemetery’s fruit differs from that found in your garden-variety orchard, and mostly consists of crab apples aside from a handful of varieties, such as Baldwin apples, similar to those sold at grocery stores.

And before graveyard bigwigs let the site’s current crop of wild-apple trees grow freely, their early 20th-centry predecessors actually banned sewing the hallowed ground with apple seeds during Prohibition, according to the cider maker.

“In the early 1900s, there was a moratorium placed on fruit trees,” Hammond said. “I think it was because people were fermenting anything they could find.”

Today, Green-Wood workers are too busy manicuring the rest of the bucolic burial site to fuss over apple production, which Hammond said varies drastically from year to year. In 2015, for instance, he and Doumis harvested enough fruit to produce 40 gallons of their graveyard blend, but last year’s apple haul only resulted in a paltry five gallons of less-than-perfect booze, he said.

But the couple isn’t fermenting Green-Wood’s apples into cider to pay the bills. Malus Immortalis isn’t distributed, and is only served at cider-making workshops its producers host at the cemetery, according to Doumis, who said their primary motivation for making the beverage is to draw new visitors to their favorite hangout, which she called one of the borough’s hidden gems.

“Every time we talk to people about the fact that we hang out in Green-Wood Cemetery, they say, ‘Oh, that’s weird,’ ” she said. “And it clicked with us that this is a way to help other New Yorkers connect with Green-Wood as this rural landscape that’s been virtually untouched since it was first carved out.”

Try some cider made with the graveyard’s apples yourself at the “Pouring Green-Wood” event at Green-Wood Cemetery [500 25th St. near Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights, (718) 210–3080, events@green-wood.com] on May 20 at 11 am. $25.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.