To quote the great LL Cool J, “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.” That phrase goes for hard cider too — a drink that’s absolutely stormed the US scene this fall. And just like LL when he dropped the hit song “Momma Said Knock You Out” way back in 1990, there was a time long ago when the apple-based alcoholic beverage was king.
Near the start of the 20th century, there was no drink more popular in America than hard cider. Thought its genesis in the US actually dates back much earlier than that…
“Europeans introduced apples and cider to North American,” says Eleanor Leger, co-founder of Eden Specialty Ciders. Cider was the ubiquitous rural beverage in Colonial times as every farmhouse had an orchard. “In fact, the planting of an orchard was one of the requirements for staking a land claim during westward expansion,” she says.
During the revolutionary era, cider-making and cider appreciation were popular among all classes, with even the founding fathers debating the merits of particular apples for cider. “In the 1800s a good portion of what was sold as French champagne in New York City was actually champagne method cider from New Jersey,” says Leger.
Destroyed by prohibition
The availability of cheap cider meant that the drink was widely consumed, eventually abused, and targeted by the Temperance movement. “With prohibition, apple orchards were converted to grocery store varieties, cider apple varieties were destroyed, and commercial cider disappeared.”
Sadly, once prohibition was finally repealed the damage was done. The industrial production of beer was a much cheaper alternative to the long, drawn-out process of cider-making. Beer became and continues to be the beverage of choice in the US.
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