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The Big Apple – A brief history of cider

The Big Apple – A brief history of cider

Cider is a popular and delicious summer drink, but have you ever wondered who first thought about turning apples into alcohol?

Apple trees have been cultivated since around the 5th century AD and cider, or something similar, seems to have been around for almost as long, although sometimes it was known as ‘apple wine.’

It was brought to Britain by the Normans in around 1100 AD and was originally a drink for the poor.  Ale was made from malted barley and using grain for alcohol could mean going without bread, so cider provided a good alternative. People drank it instead of water because sanitation was so poor, and water was often not safe to drink. It is believed that children were even baptised using cider because the water was so risky!

The first settlers in America planted lots of apple trees simply so they could continue to make cider to drink. Originally, they crushed the apples in a trough, until a genius named John Worlidge produced the first apple-mill in 1676.

In the 1800s The Temperance movement killed off the cider industry. Fired up by speeches from ministers and politicians, many farmers destroyed their ‘demon orchards,’ sparing only the trees used for sweet non-alcoholic juice. During the Prohibition years, American cider production fell by 76%.

Today the best English cider is cask-conditioned; dry and fruity, with low carbonation. Normandy cider is sweeter and more effervescent with a complex flavour. Both drinks are perfect chilled, served on a warm summer evening, with friends. Cheers!


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