Apple Cider vs. Apple Juice

November 1, 2010

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – North Americans are confusing when it comes to the word “cider.”

In Europe, cider means a fermented apple juice drink. In North America, cider can mean that, or it can mean an unfiltered apple juice that is not fermented. As a result, it is usually specified as “hard cider” as the alcoholic version, and “sweet cider” as the juice.  This is mostly to do with Prohibition, as farmers who sympathized with the movement started selling unfermented juice as inoffensive “sweet cider.” The problem is, people today don’t call it sweet or hard cider, they just call it cider.

So the other day I was at an apple tasting. A woman gives me a bite of Dabinett, and says it is a cider apple, usually voted worst tasting at the event. She then abruptly changes gears and tells an old man that they have cider there to sell. “Fermented?” I ask. “No.” she says. Both of them insist it is cider, and I have to shake my head at the craziness of it all. She just told me about a cider apple that nobody likes, so would she really go pressing it and serve it as fresh juice? No. If they don’t like to eat it, they won’t like to drink it fresh either. This is evidence to why she had fresh pressed apple juice instead of cider. The reason they don’t like the cider apple is because of the tannins. When I was trying perry pears at the Home Orchard Society’s All About Fruit Show, a man told me about how he would press the perry pears into juice and then give his son a glass of the fresh juice. His son would make the most horrible faces drinking it, and would put it down.

A second example I have is about how a woman recently posted that she had a cocktail made with cider. I had to ask her to clarify, as if it was “hard cider,” then it would be a drier, higher alcohol cocktail. If it was “sweet cider,” then the cocktail would have a totally different flavor as it would be a sweeter, lower alcohol drink. It turned out that she used juice.

I realize I’m fighting three generations or more of North Americans and their cider being unfiltered apple juice, but if the trend started for the word to change once, it could happen again.

The thing is, if I followed the North American definition, then my posts about grinding up apples and pressing them into “cider” so that I could ferment them into “cider” would just be confusing. It is kind of like a child with two grandpas instead of calling one grandfather and the other grandpapa. No, I have to stay with the European definition, or else I would have to be typing sweet or hard with every mention of the word cider. Granted, that does mean I have to periodically post:

To avoid confusion on this blog post, remember that Europeans think of cider as being a fermented apple drink, and it is only due to Prohibition in the United States that the term morphed to mean “cloudy, unfiltered apple juice.” When I say cider in this post, I mean the alcoholic version.

On a little side note from this rant, in my research, I stumbled upon a question as to what was healthier – apple juice or unfiltered sweet “cider”? The answer was that they were about equal, as the filtering process does not really strip that many nutrients out of the juice, so long as water or sugar was not added afterwards.

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3 Responses to “Apple Cider vs. Apple Juice”


  1. […] 19, 2011 Last fall, I pressed about 50 gallons worth of apple juice and started about 43 gallons of it fermenting as cider. I had 10 gallons worth “drop clear,” […]


  2. […] sure I’ll end up repeating how cider is hard cider and not apple juice many more times this […]


  3. […] just get done ranting about the word cider, only to open up a bottle of cider made by a company that sells both hard and sweet cider, and they […]


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