Words With Different Meanings (US vs UK): Cider Edition

A bit of a follow up from a previous post here. As a west country lad, it is pretty much expected of me to like cider. I freely admit to this being a recent addition to my alcohol tastes. I have friends in Bristol, lived in Devon for five years and my girlfriend lives in Cornwall. It’s only a surprise that it took so long for me to acquire the taste of fermented apple juice (sparking or otherwise). Summer days like this are perfect for sitting in the garden or on the harbour enjoying the sea breeze sweep over you, cooling the sweat. What better way to enjoy a good cider?

Henney’s – one of my favourite cider brands. I like mine dry. henneyscider.blogspot.co.uk

So imagine my surprise last week when my girlfriend told me that in North America, cider is not alcoholic. The alcoholic stuff is called hard cider. Over here, and in most of the Anglophone world – actually, in every language the translation of cider means fermented apple juice. In North America, cider is unsweetened, unfiltered and untreated. The treated stuff is simply called apple juice. Here in the UK, both are called apple juice (though the unsweetened stuff might be called “natural” apple juice, cloudy apple juice or unfiltered). Looking into it further, there does not seem to be any real distinction between which is apple juice and which is cider with some states having a legal definition and others not.

Clear? Actually, no, it’s cloudy because it is unfiltered.

In the UK (and as I said the rest of the world) if you say “cider” it certainly means the alcoholic stuff. The only difference is when it is made from something other than apple but then the bottle will state the fruit. Pear cider is usually called perry rather than pear cider, but other fruits will always be called (name of fruit) cider.

Just a little interesting linguistic quirk for today!

Background on Cider

The southwest of England is considered the cider capital of the world, selling the most bottles in any one region in any country every year, with the widest variation in options; in the UK, we drink more cider than any other country. This is not surprising when we have so much variation and so much choice with microbreweries able to compete with the big boys. When it comes to alcohol, we have always been very provincial and this desire to drink local has only strengthened in the last few years. Craft cider is experiencing an upsurge in tandem with craft beer. This is perhaps because of the lower rate of tax that cider producers enjoy and the tight restrictions on what may be called cider

At the weekend, I was at a local produce market in Falmouth (Cornwall) and saw one small producer based in St. Ives offer five different types. They had a few varieties of cider – one of which was what we call “farmhouse” (slightly cloudy, dry with a rough “home made” taste), a smooth and filtered dry, a medium, and a sweet type, and a mulled cider which should be served warm but tasted very good chilled. They also had a perry (pear cider).

So, next time you talk about “cider” be mindful about who you are talking to, to make sure they know what you are talking about!


12 thoughts on “Words With Different Meanings (US vs UK): Cider Edition

  1. eclecticalli

    To throw a wrench into things…. some of us North Americans use “cider” to mean alcoholic OR non-alcoholic, and depend on context to differentiate (if differentiation is necessary)…

    1. Ok, that makes things even more confusing :-S but thanks for clarifying!

  2. N. E. White

    Yesterday, I had a (hard) cider called Crispin. It was really good. When I visited Hobbiton in New Zealand, the Green Dragon tavern had beer and cider on tap. I assumed (like most Americans) that the cider was non-alcoholic and ordered that. It turns out it had MORE alcohol content than the beer and I was glad we had been bused in. It was good, though.

    1. Yes, what you call hard cider has slightly more alcohol than a typical beer. You’ll find (I do anyway) that it goes to my head more than beer and it always has done.

      I’ve just looked up your Crispin Cider, apparently the import is produced here in the southwest grown from traditional cider apples in Worcestershire, so if you had that one you were getting the real thing 🙂

      1. N. E. White

        Cool! There are advantages to a global economy. 🙂

      2. The authentic food experience is certainly one of them. When I visited Arizona three years ago, it made me realise just how bland and unauthentic the Mexican food we have over here can be.

  3. tominalbion

    I fell for the cider trick once here in the US and got apple juice. It hasn’t happened twice!

    1. Your face must have been a picture 🙂

  4. Megan

    Of course America has to do it differently from the rest of the world. Why are we the only ones who don’t call soccer football? It would make a lot more sense if we did. 🙂

    1. haha! indeed. And why call it football when you can’t use your feed?!

      1. Megan

        Exactly! When I was a kid, I used to wonder about that. I used to think, “Why don’t they call soccer “football” since they only use their feet in that game?” Then I found out that the rest of the world did call it football. *facepalm*

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