The 4th of July is just around the corner and I just watched the entirety of HBO’s John Adams series. Well, the two combined have me in a Revolutionary War frame of mind. Perfect time to talk about the forgotten fermented beverage of their day. Today I’m going to tip my tri-corner hat to cider.
Cider first came to the new continent on British ships as a means of battling scurvy. Fighting off vitamin deficiency was one thing… variety and supply were two other issues at hand. See, that boatload of Puritans that docked their rental vessel, The Mayflower, at Provincetown Harbor (not Plymouth Rock) as it’s now called did so because the ship’s store of beer was running low. The boat’s captain basically said “See you later” and floated back to merry old England quick as he could lest his men riot for want of beer.
One of the pilgrims, William Bradford, begged one of the sailors for a flagon of beer to which the sailor replied: “Were you my own father, he should have none.”
Bereft of ale and needing quite some time for grain crops to develop, the pilgrims desperately tried fermenting turnips and pumpkins. Luckily, apples grow plentiful in New England and soon after colonization took off in earnest, cider became the drink of nutrition and convenience.
Back to the Revolutionary War. One of the major precipitating actions leading to battle with the British was the Boston Tea Party. Mad as hell for being taxed heavily on the only allowed import goods, colonists dressed as Native Americans raided an English boat and dumped its cargo overboard. But they weren’t done. The next boat they commandeered carried hundreds of gallons of hard cider. In this instance, the goods weren’t sacrificed to the briny depths. Instead, the booty was carried to their homes and promptly drunk.
Further underscoring cider’s popularity in Revolutionary America is a tavern bill from a party the 55 delegates writing the Constitution rang up: 114 bottles of Madeira and claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 12 beers and 8 bottles of cider. Forgotten amendment: Congress shall not shout loudly when suffering the hangover.
When you get right down to it, cider is done well or not. Crispin Cider Co makes a wonderful classic cider owing its quality to the use of fresh-pressed apples and not concentrates or extractives. It’s easy-drinking with a crisp body and very clean finish. Their cider tastes exactly like it should: fresh apples without any artificial flavor or noticeable sugary sweetness.
Truth is, cider was drunk with almost as much frequency as beer back then. Crispin Cider certainly hearkens to a patriotic classic.