Americans and cider have had a rocky relationship. We’re not talking about the sweet, murky beverage that most of us call apple cider, which is really just unfiltered apple juice. Real (or “hard”) cider is generally carbonated and certainly alcoholic. And Americans used to guzzle the stuff down: back in the early 1800s it was possibly the most popular alcoholic beverage in the States. But the relationship soured in the 19th century, and it wasn’t a pretty breakup. After Prohibition, America moved on to beer and didn’t look back. The wounds have finally healed, and Americans are getting sweet on cider again.
Bill Barton ’74 is one of the people helping mend the relationship. Founded in 1999, his was among the first of a new wave of cideries in New York State. (There are now more than 50.) But Barton’s ciders bear little resemblance to most national brands of hard cider, such as Angry Orchard and Woodchuck. His ciders don’t come close to soda-like sweetness, instead ranging from dry to semisweet, with subtleties of flavor reminiscent of wine.