Quick Recipes and Easy

Cider’s Sad Story

Beer is king.

Yes, yes, there are other beverages out there. But when you go to the game, when you come home from work, when you need refreshment on a hot summer day—it’s usually time for a beer. And it’s been that way forever. Beer, with all its storied history, has been the drink of choice in America since the first boats arrived from England, right? Incorrect.

In fact, while the English have always loved their ale, the first drink to come to prominence in the New World during the Colonial is one that’s all but vanished from the public eye in modern times: hard apple cider. And though beer and wine show up more prominently in history, cider’s no Johnny-come-lately to the alcohol party. It’s been imbibed since ancient Hebrews and Greeks cooked apples in fermented juice; its name, in fact, comes from Saint Gerome, who first referred to fermented apple juice as “Sicere” in the 4th century (leading to the English “cider” and the French “sidre”).

By the time the English colonized America, they liked their cider just as much as their ale. They brought cider apple seeds and trees along for the ride, planting them extensively throughout the new colonies. The often-dry, sometimes-sweet drink quickly took the country by storm, mainly because it was so simple to make. Anyone with apples and a bit of time could brew their own cider; unlike beer, it could be drunk at any time of the day (supposedly, John Adams loved a glass every morning with his breakfast). In addition, thanks to the fermentation process, cider was often cleaner than the water in local wells, giving it a reputation for health as well as taste.

But as the colonies developed and urbanized, cider’s position as king of booze started to weaken. It was hard to transport the apples out west, where the arid climate proved unfriendly to orchards. The situation worsened with the arrival of German immigrants, who brought their beer with them. They made efficient breweries that produced on a massive scale, taking less time than the simpler, but lengthier, cidermaking process. Cities grew, beer rose to prominence, and cider became a farm drink—produced slowly, on a small scale.

The final blow came with the onset of Prohibition. With alcohol production driven underground, cider’s weak position crumbled. Beer, whiskey, and wine all made comebacks when the alcohol ban lifted, but in the interim Temperence Movement members pushed nonalcoholic cider. In part thanks to Martinelli’s, which touted its “non-alcoholic” sparkling drink, apple cider quickly became interchangeable with apple juice.

Nowadays, cider’s reputation is somewhere between “sissy” and “soda pop.” Even in England, where people guzzle millions of pints of Strongbow every year, the drink struggles to shake off the image of something cheap drunk by teenagers and ancient ladies. This may be changing; the Irish export Magners is growing in popularity with a 225% jump in sales in the past two years, and traditional country ciders are regaining credibility nationwide.

In America, the situation looks worse. Woodchuck is relatively well loved, but it and Cider Jack are the only well-known domestic ciders left in the country. The drink’s reputation—long in decline since the colonial days—now puts it somewhere below beer but above wine coolers. Order it with your buddies at the bar and you’ll get more than a few stares. But remember cider’s history and hold your head high.

Interested in making your own cider? Mr. Beer offers cider kits, or you can find instructions for doing it yourself online.

Recipes for cooking with cider on the site include Cider Bread, Spiced Cider, and Hard Apple Cider Cake.

Some brands of cider easily found in liquor stores include Woodchuck, Strongbow, and Cider Jack.

Sources:
intellectbooks.com/on_line/heritage/cider/makers/history.htm intellectbooks.com/on_line/heritage/cider/makers/history.htm
lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/drink/tale/0 lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/drink/tale/0,,2061754,00.html
ms.essortment.com/hardapplecider_rxvs.htm ms.essortment.com/hardapplecider_rxvs.htm
applejournal.com/fr05.htm applejournal.com/fr05.htm

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