A Taste of History

Hard cider, once America's favorite beverage, is making a comeback.

By Diana Pittet

Photography by Thomas MacDonald


hard cider was once the drink of choice for most AmericansBy pouring a glass of artisanal cider, crafted locally and sustainably on a small scale, you preserve heirloom apple varieties with enchanting names like 'Esopus Spitzenburg' and 'Hewes Virginia Crab'. When Americans began eating apples instead of drinking them, many varieties were at risk of disappearing. "Cider is a delicious and valuable part of our culinary and cultural heritage," says Charlotte Shelton, of Albemarle CiderWorks in North Garden, Virginia.

If you've had a negative experience with overly sweet cider that tasted more like candy than an adult beverage, expand your tasting menu. As Bruce Nissen of Crispin Cider in Minneapolis says, "You wouldn't try a Chardonnay and then extrapolate that all wines were like that." With a blend of different types of apples (sweets, sharps, bittersweets, bittersharps, and dessert), what you find in a bottle can be bone-dry or sweet and fruity.

Don't forget other areas of the world where there is a historical and thriving production of cider, including England, France, and Spain. Generally speaking, English ciders tend to be dry and crisp, while French ones are sweet and complex. Spanish ciders, almost bordering on vinegar, are something unique, but stand up to full-on rustic food.

Whatever the season, have some cider on hand, for yourself and your guests, just as you have beer, wine, spirits, and soft drinks. And if you are wondering what to serve at Thanksgiving, cider might be your answer. It's American, historic, and delicious.