We talk about cider a lot, so it might be helpful to define what we mean by “cider”. There are some disagreements and confusion about cider terminology but the most basic question is:
What is cider?
Our short answer:
Cider is a fermented, alcoholic beverage made from apple juice.
This may seem simple and easy – but to get the full picture – here is our long answer…
One Word, Many Definitions
In North America this isn’t something everybody agrees on. For most of my life my understanding of the word “cider” referred to hot mulled apple ‘cider’. I always pictured cider as a sweet warm drink sometimes available at fall/winter celebrations.
Over time, I did also began to associate the term with alcoholic drinks as well. At that time, I began to see “cider” as some sort of drink made from apple juice. Of course, I was then surprised one day to see a bottle of what appeared to be apple juice labelled as cider at the grocery store!
May people are confused, and the confusion is understandable. There are a lot of mixed messages out there.
For what it is worth – for most of the world cider is the fermented and alcoholic beverage produced from apple juice.
In North America cider can also refer to cloudy fresh apple juice. Often people will specify “hard cider” for the fermented drink whereas “sweet cider” or “fresh cider” is sometimes used to specify the unfermented product.
Why The Confusion?
The theory is that this issue goes back to prohibition when the fermented version was often illegal. Even after prohibition ended, hard cider did not become widely available again and for many the word became even more entrenched as a name for fresh apple juice.
It seems to me that the disagreement on terminology is more pronounced in the United States. but you definitely see confusion in Canada as well. I find the confusion is most pronounced in traditional apple growing regions where people are more familiar with fresh apple juice/sweet cider. In the Prairies, most people don’t have much access to sweet cider, and so haven’t needed a word for it. That being said, many people here will still call the alcoholic version “hard cider” because that is how it has been marketed.
We Just Call it Cider
For us, at least – cider is fermented. Whenever we say “cider” we are speaking about a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apples. Calling it “hard” feels unnecessary. We think that “hard” better describes drinks where alcohol has been added instead of something fermented. For example, hard lemonade or hard iced tea are examples of drinks where alcohol has been added to something that wouldn’t naturally contain alcohol.
That being said, in certain situation we do often find ourselves specifying “hard cider” to ensure that the audience knows what we are talking about – but we hope that over time this will become less necessary.
Most of the time the distinctions are clear enough but sometimes it means people use the same words to describe different things. For example, if we say “sweet cider” we usually mean a fermented alcoholic drink that happens to tastes sweet – a term to contrast from “dry cider”.
What do we call the cloudy apple juice then? We actually usually just call it juice, or fresh juice if want to be clear its not the same stuff you find in a juice box.
Just in case that wasn’t confusing enough – we’ll probably still call the hot spiced apple juice “hot apple cider”, even if it isn’t fermented/alcoholic – because warm spicy apple juice just doesn’t have the same ring.
We hope that as more Canadians become cider drinkers, we can align our cider terminology with the majority of the cider drinking world. At the same time, the most important thing is that we all enjoy cider – whatever you call it!