Cider is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples mainly, though pears are also used; in the UK, pear cider is known as perry. In the United States and parts of Canada, where the term cider almost exclusively refers to non-alcoholic apple juice (apple cider), the phrase hard cider is used to denote the fermented version.
While any variety of apple, and even other pome fruits such as pear or quince, may be used, certain cultivars are preferred in some regions, and may be known as cider apples. The drink varies in alcohol content from less than 3% ABV in French cidre doux to 8.5% ABV or above in traditional English ciders.
Cider is very popular in the United Kingdom, especially in South West England, in comparison to other countries. The UK has the highest per capita consumption as well as the largest cider producing companies in the world, including H. P. Bulmer, the largest. Overall, the UK produces 500 million litres (110 million imperial gallons) of cider per year.
The drink is also popular and traditional in Brittany (chistr) and Normandy (France) (cidre), Ireland and Asturias (sidra) and the Basque Country (sagardoa) of Spain and France. Pear cider is popular in Sweden and in Basse-Normandie (France) (poiré). The drink is making a resurgence in both Europe and the United States.
Modern, mass-produced ciders more closely resemble sparkling wine in appearance. More traditional brands tend to be darker and cloudier. They are often stronger than processed varieties and taste more strongly of apples. Almost colourless white cider is produced on a large scale. It is typically strong (typically 7-8% ABV) and available very cheaply.
Some ciders produced in the UK are sold under the alternative spelling cyder.
Apples grown for consumption are suitable for cider making, though some regional cider-makers prefer to use a mix of eating and cider apples (as in Kent, England), or exclusively cider apples (as in the West Country, England). There are many hundreds of varieties of cultivars developed specifically for cider making.
Once the apples are gathered from trees in orchards they are scratted (ground down) into what is called pomace or pommage. Historically this was done using pressing stones with circular troughs, or by a cider mill. Cider mills were traditionally driven by the hand, water-mill, or horse-power. In modern times they are likely to be powered by electricity. The pulp is then transferred to the cider press and built up in layers into a block known as a cheese.
Traditionally the method for squeezing the juice from the cheese involves placing clear, sweet straw or hair cloths between the layers of pomace. This will usually alternate with slatted ash-wood racks, until there is a pile of ten or twelve layers. It is important to minimise the time that the pomace is exposed to air in order to keep oxidation to a minimum.
This pile is then subjected to different degrees of pressure in succession, until all the 'must' or juice is squeezed from the pomace. This juice, after being strained in a coarse hair-sieve, is then put into either open vats or closed casks. The pressed pulp is given to farm animals as winter feed, composted or discarded, or used to make liqueurs.
Shortly before the fermentation consumes all the sugar, the liquor is racked (siphoned) into new vats. This leaves dead yeast cells and other undesirable material at the bottom of the old vat. At this point it becomes important to exclude airborne acetic bacteria, so vats are filled completely to exclude air. The fermenting of the remaining available sugar generates a small amount of carbon dioxide that forms a protective layer, reducing air contact. This final fermentation creates a small amount of carbonation. Extra sugar may be added specifically for this purpose. Racking is sometimes repeated if the liquor remains too cloudy.
Apple based juices with cranberry also make fine ciders; and many other fruit purées or flavourings can be used, such as grape, cherry, and raspberry.
The cider is ready to drink after a three month fermentation period, though more often it is matured in the vats for up to two or three years.
A popular aperitif in Normandy is pommeau– a drink produced by blending unfermented apple juice and apple brandy in the barrel (the high alcoholic content of the spirit stops the fermentation process of the cider and the blend takes on the character of the aged barrel).
A few producers in Quebec have developed ice cider (French: cidre de glace), sometimes called "apple ice wine"), inspired from ice wines, where the apples are naturally frozen either before or after harvest. The alcohol concentration of ice cider is 9–13%.
Another similar drink is plum jerkum, made from fermented plums, traditional of Warwickshire in the English Midlands. It is said that it "left the head clear while paralysing the legs". The Warwickshire Drooper plum from which it is traditionally brewed is now uncommon, which explains the rarity of the drink.
In Ontario, apple cider or apple hooch is often home-made. Cider is commercially produced in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Ontario, usually with a 7% alcohol content. It is sold in 341 ml glass bottles and 2 litre plastic bottles, and does not have the added sugar injected into much of US hard cider.
Along with Normandy, the Channel Islands had a strong cider-making tradition. Cider had been the ordinary drink of people of Jersey from the 16th century, when the commercial opportunities offered by cider exports spurred the transformation of feudal open-field agriculture to enclosure. Until the 19th century, it was the largest agricultural export with up to a quarter of the agricultural land given over to orchards. In 1839, for example, 268,199 gallons (1,219,257 litres) of cider were exported from Jersey to England alone, and almost half a million gallons were exported from Guernsey 1834-1843, but by 1870 exports from Jersey had slumped to 4,632 gallons.
Beer had replaced cider as a fashionable drink in the main export markets, and even the home markets had switched to beer as the population became more urban. Potatoes overtook cider as the most important crop in Jersey in the 1840s, and in Guernsey glasshouse tomato production grew in importance. Small-scale cider production on farms for domestic consumption, particularly by seasonal workers from Brittany and mainland Normandy, was maintained, but by the mid-20th century production dwindled until only 8 farms were producing cider for their own consumption in 1983.
The number of orchards had been reduced to such a level that the destruction of trees in the Great Storm of 1987 demonstrated how close the Islands had come to losing many of its traditional cider apple varieties. A concerted effort was made to identify and preserve surviving varieties and new orchards were planted. As part of diversification, farmers have moved into commercial cider production, and the cider tradition is celebrated and marketed as a heritage experience. In Jersey, a strong (above 7%) variety is currently sold in shops and a bouché style is also marketed.
In Jersey, cider is used in the preparation of black butter (Jèrriais: nièr beurre), a traditional preserve.
French cidre is an alcoholic drink produced predominantly in Normandy and Brittany. It varies in strength from below 4% alcohol to considerably more. Cidre Doux is a sweet cider, usually up to 3% in strength. 'Demi-Sec' is 3–5% and Cidre Brut is a strong dry cider of 5% alcohol and above. Most French ciders are sparkling. Higher quality cider is sold in champagne-style bottles (cidre bouché). Many ciders are sold in corked bottles, but some screw-top bottles exist. Until the mid-20th century, cider was the second most-consumed drink in France (after wine) but an increase in the popularity of beer displaced cider's market share outside traditional cider-producing regions. In crêperies (pancakes restaurants) in Brittany, cider is generally served in traditional ceramic bowls (or wide cups) rather than glasses. A kir breton (or kir normand) is a cocktail apéritif made with cider and cassis, rather than white wine and cassis for the traditional kir. The Domfrontais, in the Orne (Basse-Normandie), is famous for its pear cider (poiré). The calvados du Domfrontais is made of cider and poiré.
Some cider is also made in south western France, in the French portion of the Basque Country. It is a traditional drink there and is making a recovery. Ciders produced here are generally of the style seen in Spanish part of the Basque country.
Calvados, Normandy, France; Calvados, the spirit is made of cider through a process called double distillation. In the first pass, the result is a liquid containing 28%–30% alcohol. In a second pass, the amount of alcohol is augmented to about 40%.
German cider is mainly produced and consumed in Hesse, particularly in the Frankfurt, Wetterau and Odenwald areas, in Moselfranken, Merzig (Saarland) and the Trier area, as well as the lower Saar area and the region bordering on Luxembourg. In these regions, there are several large producers, as well as numerous small, private producers often using traditional recipes. An official Viez route or cider route connects Saarburg with the border to Luxembourg.
Following lengthy navigation through the directives of Norway's complex alcohol laws, three brands of sparkling cider with an abv of approximately 10% are available to the Norwegian public through distribution by the monopoly outlet Vinmonopolet, Hardanger Sider Sprudlande from Hardanger, Krune Sider from Bergen sourcing apples from Hardanger, and Liersider from Lier. In line with the law of 1975 prohibiting all advertising of alcoholic beverages of abv greater than 2.5%, the products receive little exposure despite some favourable press reaction.
Ciders of low alcohol levels are widely available, mostly brands imported from Sweden, although carbonated soft drinks with no alcoholic content may also be marketed as "cider".
There are two main types of cider produced in South Africa, Hunters Gold and Savanna Dry. The are produced and distributed through Distell Group Limited. Hunters Gold was first introduced in South Africa in 1988 as an alternative to beer. The range includes Hunters Dry and Hunters Export. Savanna Dry was introduced in 1996 and also comes in a Light Premium variety.
In Asturias cider is traditionally poured in very small quantities from a height into a wide glass, with the arm holding the bottle extended upwards and the one holding the glass extended downwards. This technique is called to escanciar un culín (also echar un culín) and is done to get air bubbles into the drink, thus giving it a sparkling taste like Champagne that lasts a very short time. Spanish sidra is closely associated with sidrerías or sidreríes (Asturias).
In the Netherlands cider is not as commonly available as in its surrounding countries. During 2007 Heineken started testing a cider brand named Jillz in a number of bars throughout the country. The beverage is promoted as an alternative for beer. It contains 5% alcohol by volume which is similar to a typical draught beer in the Netherlands. Jillz will be available on draught in bars, pubs and restaurants only.
There are two broad main traditions in cider production in the UK - the West tradition and the Kent and East Anglia tradition. The former are made using a much higher percentage of true cider-apples and so are richer in tannins and sharper in flavour. Kent and East Anglia ciders tend to use a higher percentage of, or are exclusively made from, culinary and dessert fruit; Kentish ciders such as Biddenden's and Theobolds are typical of this style. They tend to be clearer, more vinous and lighter in body and flavour.
At one end of the scale are the traditional, small farm-produced varieties. These are non-carbonated and usually cloudy orange in appearance. England's West Country contains many of these farms. Production is often on such a small scale the product is only sold at the point of manufacture or in local pubs and shops At the other end of the scale are the mass production cider factories producing Magners "Irish Cider" and Hereford's Strongbow Cider.
Mass produced commercial cider such as that produced by Bulmers is likely to be pasteurised and force-carbonated. The colour is likely to be golden yellow with a clear appearance from the filtration. White ciders are almost colourless in appearance.
A key market segment exists in the UK for strong white mass-produced cider at 7.5% alcohol by volume. Cider with higher than 7.5% alcohol has a higher rate of excise duty. Typical brands include White Lightning, Diamond White, Frosty Jack, and White Strike.
By volume of alcohol, the excise duty on cider is lower than any other drink. The duty, as of 2007, was £26.48 per 100 litres of cider of up to 7.5% alcohol. 100 litres of table wine or alcopops would attract £177.99 of duty, wine under 5.5% was charged £75.42, £102.83 for beer under 7.5%, and £146.70 for the equivalent alcohol volume of spirits.
Before 1996 brands could be labelled at up to 8.4% alcohol when they actually contained 7.4%. This happened because the duty was levied on the actual strength of the alcohol but Trade Descriptions legislation allowed the label to overstate the alcohol content by up to 1%. White Lightning was then sold in both 7.4% and 8.4% strengths, due to uncertainty about whether consumers would prefer the pricier, stronger drink, or the slightly weaker, cheap one.
Until 2005, the market leading White Lightning brand was being sold on an almost continual 50% extra free promotion, giving 3 litres of 7.5% cider for a typical selling price of £2.99. Scottish Courage, which owned the brand, decided that year to restrict bottle size to 2 litres as part of its responsible drinking strategy. A spokesman for the company spoke of white cider in general, "It is the cheapest way to buy alcohol in the UK. This is pocket money these days. There is no other alcohol category that has the same challenge as white cider. One three litre plastic bottle of white cider contains almost the full recommended weekly alcohol intake for a male drinker" (225 ml, 22.5 units, of pure alcohol content compared with the recommended maximum of 28 units). This led to a 70% drop in sales of White Lightning, but increased sales of the brand owner's weaker, more profitable brands. Other manufacturers followed by increasing prices and scrapping their 3 litre bottles.
The price increases on 7.5% cider has increased sales of 5% mass-market cider, which is still widely available in 3 litre bottles in supermarkets.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, a condition known as Devon colic, a form of lead poisoning, was associated with the consumption of cider, vanishing after a campaign to remove lead components from cider presses in the early 19th century.
Welsh varieties of apples and pears are often distinct from those grown in England, giving cider from Wales a flavour noticeably different to ciders from nearby regions.
UKCider define "real" cider as a product containing at least 85% fresh apple juice, with no artificial flavourings or colourings. UKCider campaigns for the percentage juice content to be listed as part of a full ingredients labelling.
Sometime after Prohibition the word cider came to mean unfiltered, unfermented apple juice. For instance, in Pennsylvania, apple cider is legally defined as an "amber golden, opaque, unfermented, entirely non-alcoholic juice squeezed from apples". Imitation "cider" products may contain natural or artificial flavours or colours generally recognized as safe, provided their presence is declared on the label by the use of the word "imitation" in type at least one-half the size of the type used to declare the flavour. Cider containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume is classified as hard cider.
Cider may also refer to sparkling apple juice, which is often filtered, such as Martinelli's sparkling apple cider, once touted specifically as "non-alcoholic cider". Martinelli's is sold as "cider" or "juice" depending on regional usage.