An Insider’s Guide to Cider

Written by
October 9, 2018

Are you tired of doing the same old things? Going to the same old places? Drinking the same old drinks? Well, then it’s time to shake things up. That’s right, it’s time to ditch the beer, forget about wine, and reach for a cider. And why not? This often-overlooked drink has a whole lot to offer – if you give it the chance. In an effort to promote a wider appreciation of crisp and delicious cider, we’ve put together a little guide. Join us, hand in hand, as we go strolling through the apple orchards of history.

Defining cider

Let’s start with the basics. Cider is an alcoholic drink that’s made by fermenting apples (although it can also be made with other fruits, like pears). While it’s often presented as an alternative to beer, cider actually has more in common with wine. Both use fermented fruit to create alcohol, and both rely on the natural properties of the fruit (tannins) to help create depth and complexity.

Additionally, just like wine, the taste of cider is shaped by its terroir – which is a fancy way of saying that ciders made in separate locations will taste different from one another due to a whole host of factors. However, unlike wine, most ciders are made from a blend of different apple varieties rather than just one species. The types of apples that are commonly used to brew cider are also the ones that you’d avoid eating, due to the fact that they’re generally the sourest fruits. While they might taste terrible baked into a pie, it’s precisely this bitterness that makes them delicious when brewed into an alcoholic drink. Waste not, want not!

Historical roots

The process of fermenting apples is so old that it’s hard to point to a definitive start of the practice. We do know that when the Romans were roamin’ around Europe in approximately 55 BC, that they came across Celts who were making booze from apples, and were so impressed that they adopted the method for themselves.

At this time, cider was made with the fruit that was available on hand – and Western Europe had the most fertile soil for growing apples. This means that the UK, France, and Spain have a rich heritage of producing cider (although the Spanish label it ‘sidra’). This influence stretches right through to today, as the UK leads the world in per capita cider consumption.

The spread

As the British empire formed and expanded, they brought the secrets of cider-making with them. When the English arrived in America during the 17th century, the habit quickly took root. The drink was far easier to make than beer and, for a labouring population that couldn’t afford to get sick, was often safer to drink than water. In fact, the origin of the phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ comes from medical recommendations to drink cider in place of potentially contaminated water (actually, we just made that up – but it sounds true, doesn’t it?). Also, it’s worth noting that the alcohol content of the cider being brewed at this stage was a LOT lower than what we’re accustomed to.

Today’s cider

Nowadays, cider is widely available just about everywhere. In fact, between 2006 and 2016 the number of Australians who had consumed cider in the previous four weeks grew by a mind-boggling 600 per cent. Locally, cider must be made from at least 25 per cent fruit juice – but each country has its own regulations. The French are particularly tight on this, mandating that all cider be made from fresh fruit (not reconstituted juice) with minimal added sugar. As a result, France’s ‘cidres’ are often dryer than other countries’ versions – and make for great dinner pairings in place of wine.

Technological breakthroughs have also allowed for the creation of new cider varieties and styles. New flavours, like Somersby’s Watermelon cider, and diet-friendly variants like Mr Finch’s new Low Sugar offering are gaining traction. That’s not to say that there isn’t still a bevvy of traditional options available.

With the beverage’s massive resurgence in popularity, you’re sure to find a cider that’s the apple of your eye. Just remember to pepper your convo with a few terms like ‘traditional dry’, ‘astringent tannins’, and ‘complex finish’, and you’ll have people convinced you’re a cider-savant in no time.

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