Cider: Lost in Translation

Following years of ‘linguistic confusion’, researchers from Virginia Tech and Cornell have teamed up to solve America’s 'hard cider' identity crisis.

As the US fascination with craft beer continues, cider has enjoyed something of a renaissance during the past ten years even if Americans continue to struggle with its identity.

While this can be traced back to the prohibition era this ‘linguistic confusion’ still exists today where ‘apple cider’ means something completely different to its American And British consumers.

On the West coast of the Atlantic, what the British refer to as cider is usually called hard cider, with cider and apple cider being reserved for the non-alcoholic varieties. Confused yet? You’re about to be. For those of you that thought non-alcoholic cider might just be another way of saying apple juice, you’re wrong. The former is typically an unfiltered version of the latter.

 So, if you’re drinking in New Hampshire, apple cider is like unfiltered apple juice, but served piping hot with added mulled spices.

 “Look further across Europe and you’ll find that America’s version of apple cider is the outlier—cidre in France and sidra in Spain are both akin to British hard cider, rather than the American mulled beverage,” says Siddhi Lama for Atlas Obscura

With both sweet and hard cider-makers milling and pressing apples to extract juice, a key difference between the two comes down to fermentation and type of apples. For instance, astringent, tannin-rich varieties are fermented to create full-bodied hard dry ciders. Whereas the hot, mulled beverage Americans know is made from culinary apples like Jonagold Honeycrisp and Gala.

However, American hard cider has grown so quickly as an industry that a unified descriptory language was never developed for it. This means that consumers don’t know what to look for when buying cider and cider-makers aren’t consistent in what they put on their bottles to represent the flavours inside.

This has lead to a branding identity crisis for the beverage and now researchers from Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology and Cornell’s Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences are teaming up to change that and the way cider is marketed to consumers in future.

To do that, they intend to create a more ‘consistent and descriptive marketing language’ which enables consumers to try new ciders whilst also being able to savour a type in the same manner that you might enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Gavi.