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

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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.
Posted 12:00 am, May 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mark from Sunset Park says:
Of the bodies buried, how many do you think are trapped in plastic caskets?
May 9, 10:08 am
Mustafa Khant from Atlantic Ave says:
I'm sure they like Dickens Cider.
May 9, 10:20 am
Pat Gorman from Naperville IL says:
Can't we keep the cemetery "hallowed ground" by not having cider-making workshops, etc in the cemetery. It is not what we signed up for when we buried our loved ones.
May 9, 10:43 am
tyler from pps says:
Calm down Pat... They're not digging up graves and they're not disrupting funerals (and are probably far less intrusive than the visitors driving around in there)
May 9, 11 am
Cider drinker from Drunk Tank says:
Im sure those trees have been sucking up plenty of formaldehyde for many decades. Enjoy the embalming fluid in your cider, it must be something akin to smoking angel dust.
May 9, 11:08 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Tyler has to get that dig about cars in because Green-Wood bans BICYCLES!
May 9, 1:01 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Tyler is a self hating car owner. He can’t resist any chance he gets to flog himself.
May 9, 1:11 pm
Celia from Kensington says:
Pat Gorman - you should have read the history before you’signed up’. This cemetery has always been a park. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries families used to picnic here. It’s not disrespectful, it’s a healthy acceptance that death is part of life
May 9, 1:21 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Rufus and Henry... What sad people you are. That was a "dig about cars." I don't particularly care one way or another that visitors to Green-Wood can drive (or that bicycles stay at the entrance). However, that's a statement of fact.

A group of people talking about apple trees is probably far less intrusive than visitors driving around in automobiles.

Is that really so controversial?
May 9, 4:53 pm
Tyler from pps says:
*was NOT a "dig about cars" (typo)
May 9, 4:54 pm
Nooter from Bed Stuy says:
Tastes like chicken !!! Ha ha ha !!!!
May 9, 7:12 pm
Stacey from Queens says:
No fun for alcoholics!
May 9, 7:21 pm
Jim Demers from Bay Ridge says:
This is a nice complement to the "Sweet Hereafter" honey made by the busy bees of Green-Wood.
Green-Wood Cemetery is indeed a park; it's also an arboretum, a National Historic Landmark, and one of the greatest bird-watching sites in the tri-state area. Respect for the "permanent residents" is maintained by rules against jogging, cycling, and pets, but it's open for walking and driving. (Somehow, Green-Wood has not suffered the fate of Central Park's drives: cars are few and the drivers are calm.)
Any other city would kill to have a resource like this. Check out their events web page and you're sure find something of interest.
As the staff likes to say, "visit while you can still leave!"
May 10, 12:44 pm

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