Sugary Ciders Kill The Apple’s Promise of Greatness

sugarIf you like your drinks sweet…and I mean sugary sweet, then cider is for you. But if you like your drink to exhibit nuance and layers of flavors and to be interesting, then you are going to need to be relentless in your search if you want to stick to cider.

It’s no secret that Americans fall into the first category. Most of the wine that is drunk today retains residual sugar. Most of the non-alcoholic drinks Americans consume contain sugar or sweetener. A large percent of the cocktails we order are sweet. And of course, most cider is sweet.

Sweet is fine…as far as it goes. But it does do one thing that more discerning drinkers should understand. It masks authentic flavor and aroma. The juice of apples, once fermented, possesses the ability to deliver amazing complexity and layers of flavors that will make us perk up and take notice, not to mention compliment a host of foods. But when the fermented juice of apples is left too sweet or when sweeteners are added to cider, these most interesting flavors and aromas are flattened and masked.

In fact, the prominence of sweetness in cider has become so ubiquitous that oftentimes bottles of small batch ciders will read “Dry” when in fact what’s in them is just a little less sugary than what you find in the commercial, grocery store-sold, sweet apple concoctions that go by the name “cider”. Too many small cider makers are training American drinkers to believe that dry is really sweet. And it’s a shame.

In the reviews here at The Cider Journal, we try to be very specific about the amount of sugar you’ll find in a cider. For those folks looking for the real deal, for something that truly showcases the apple without lathering it up with sweet sugar flavors, we try to give you guideposts in our reviews.

If you are looking for a list of those ciders that treat the apple with respect and deliver on the promise of the apple without relying on sugar for flavor, take a look at our 5 Star, 4.5 Star and 4 Star reviews. This is where you’ll like find such ciders.

And for the growing number of cidermakers reading this, please…please don’t write “Dry” on your label if the cider is in fact not dry.


6 Responses to “Sugary Ciders Kill The Apple’s Promise of Greatness”

  1. Ginny Povall

    It would be great if you could include the residual sugar, total acid and pH analysis with your reviews of the ciders so that people can understand what “dry” means.

  2. Ginny Povall

    It would be great if you could include the residual sugar, total acid and pH analysis with your reviews of the ciders so that people can understand what “dry” means.

  3. Kate

    I agree that more ciders should publish residual sugar or Brix, on a scale, so we have a better idea of the sweetness. I’ve only seen this a couple times (ex. Seattle Cider). Sometimes with research this info can be found online, but even then, who knows if it is current / applicable to the cider, as it can change a bit year to year. I’ve had many ciders labeled Dry which were not, and many which didn’t say they were going to be Dry but were. At least residual sugar data isn’t subjective.

  4. Darlene Hayes

    While true that residual sugar data isn’t subjective, it still isn’t the whole story. I’ve had ciders with identical residual sugar from the same cider maker that read quite differently in their perceived sweetness – different apple blends, etc. To my mind, cider needn’t have a sub-1 specific gravity to be a very good cider, but it does need balance, and whatever sweetness exists should come from an apple (or pear), not a sack. The cidres and poirés of France are a case in point. All are more sweet than dry and some are brilliant expressions of both fruit and terroir. Not that I don’t love dry ciders, but they’re not the whole story, and putting “dry” on a label when it isn’t does both consumer and category a great disservice.

  5. Mike Zercher

    I agree with the direction of your post. I am a small producer making ciders from locally grown apples. I have two styles that I refer to as “a tad sweet” and “dry.” Many people have commented to me that the semi-sweet is dry to their taste, however even my “dry” cider is backsweetened because I believe that, like salt on so many foods, a little sweetness enhances the natural flavors of my cider.

    You essentially ask us not to “train” drinkers to think sweet cider is dry. Aside from the contrarian idea that consumers might be expected to take responsibility for their own “training” in our culture of ubiquitous marketing, what constitutes a sweet cider that should not be labeled dry? I have seen a number of definitions of what dry means in cider. What’s yours?

    • Kate

      I too would be interested in their cutoff for “dry”. However, from being an avid Cider Journal reader, I have somewhat of an idea.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>