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A Brief History of Hard Cider in America

A Brief History of Hard Cider in America


Fall is just around the corner, and that means it’s almost time to pull out your coziest sweater, light the fireplace, and sip on a delicious hard cider. Sadly, most people aren’t aware of the amazing history that cider has in the United States or its popularity before Prohibition. Here’s a brief history of hard cider in America, perfect for reading while you enjoy a delicious and boozy apple beverage.

Why “Hard” Cider?

The first thing you need to know about hard cider is the name. In most other parts of the world, there’s only cider and juice. So where did the term “hard” cider come from?

The jury is still out on why the US started calling it “hard” cider instead of just cider, but one cause may be the political scene of the early nineteenth century. Essentially, politicians used the term “hard cider” to emphasize their belief that cider was the more rugged American beverage of choice. What we do know is that we started calling cider “hard cider” before we began describing other liquors as “hard.”

Cider in America

Hard cider was an extremely popular beverage from the Classical period well into the Medieval and Early Modern periods. When Europe began expanding into the Americas, colonists brought their love of hard cider with them. In fact, many of the Founding Fathers had their own cider orchards. When people say that apple pie is quintessentially American, they forget that our first love was cider!

No history of hard cider in America would be complete without mentioning the detrimental effect that Prohibition had on the country’s cider enjoyment. An apple orchard isn’t as easy to hide as a still, so many people had to burn their orchards. By the time Prohibition ended, beer had taken over as the American drink of choice, leaving cider all but forgotten.

American Cider Today

Cider has seen a modest comeback thanks to the normalization of alcohol consumption in society. Thanks to the new interest in craft beer, there’s also been renewed interest in cider, mead, and other less common beverages. In fact, there are many other types of cider besides apple, and we can thank Europe’s enduring cider appreciation for the preservation of these other brews.

Cider is a fermented beverage made from fruit juice, so not all of it comes from apples. Pear cider is called perry. Cyser is a cider-mead blend made of honey and apple juice. The ancient Romans even enjoyed a delightful cider made with quince!

Your Own Cider Journey

You can purchase cider at the store or visit a cidery if you have one nearby. However, one of the best ways to enjoy cider is to make it yourself. You could even say it’s the true American way to enjoy cider. To make your own homebrew cider, you need some basic fermentation equipment, apple juice concentrate, and yeast. Try out different recipes, and you’ll be sure to find a favorite!



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