Until very recently, ordering cider in an English pub might have drawn curious looks from people within earshot. The status of this once popular drink had been reduced to that of a diminutive, “just for a change” kind of choice. But the tide is turning again for the apple-based beverage.
Last year, cider sales increased by over 11% in British supermarkets, up to £822 million ($1.3 billion). Cider held its own in bars and pubs, up by 1,6% while both wine and beer sales dipped by roughly 4%. Local star chefs Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein have taken to use it as an ingredient. According to London’s authoritative chef Mark Hix, when cooking cider can be an excellent “substitute for French brandy, sherry, port, even champagne”.
As is often the case with culinary trends, it’s hard to pin this renaissance down to one specific reason. It is more surprising that cider has been out of favour for so long. A versatile drink, it is refreshing in the summer and invigorating in a cold winter night. Traditional production areas in Europe are Ireland, France’s Brittany and Normandy, Spain’s Asturias and Germany’s Hessen, but cider is produced and consumed in large quantities in places like Argentina, Canada and Australia. The U.S. also has its own production.
With a 7% ABV content and its acidic, fruity taste, its perception is changing from a stronger version of beer to a milder alternative to wine. After all, apples come in as many varieties as grapes. And as traditional lore has it, producers of perry (a pear-based version of cider) used the méthode champenoise in England as early as 500 years ago. Well before a French monk called Dom Perignon decided to give it a try.