This Surprising Alcoholic Beverage is the Fastest-Growing in the U.S.

Expect to see a ton more of this beverage at bars and breweries near you. Can you guess what it is?

Cider tasting flight on a wood boardShutterstock / C. R. Birky
Shutterstock / C. R. Birky

When you’re in the mood for a drink, what’s your go-to? A glass of wine? A craft beer? Or maybe you pour a hard cider?

If you went for the third option, you’ve jumped on the fastest-growing drink trend in America. That’s right. Hard cider has surpassed beer, wine and hard liquors as the beverage with the biggest increase in sales annually—going back to 2009. Brands like Angry Orchard, Johnny Appleseed and Redd’s Apple Ale have seen sales triple between 2011 and 2013, and they’ve continued to rise since then. (Fun fact: Cider was the most popular beverage in colonial times. These vintage desserts deserve a comeback, too.)

What’s All the Fuss About?

Never heard of cider? It’s made from fermented crushed fruit, usually apples unless specified otherwise. (Not to be confused with apple cider vinegar, a bitter liquid linked to all kinds of wellness claims.) By 2020, cider sales are expected to reach 2% of beer sales.

So how did hard cider get to be so popular? Let’s take a look.

It’s Gluten-free

That’s something you can’t say about beer, even the fancy craft kind, most of which is made with wheat or barley. Not everyone who drinks hard cider is avoiding gluten, but according to researchers, the fact that it doesn’t contain grain products has led to its increase in popularity. That’s not to say it’s healthier, though: Hard cider packs up to 200 calories per can, nearly twice that of a Bud Light.

(Here are more “healthy” foods that actually aren’t.)

It Appeals to Millennials

Across the pond in the U.K., cider’s surge of popularity crested about a decade ago, and today it claims about 15% of the beer market in England. The beverage is most popular among 18- to 24-year-olds (the drinking age there is 18). While hard cider attracts an older audience over here, there’s no denying that its emphasis on craft brews, local cideries and more natural ingredients is a huge selling point for the younger set. Plus, cider doesn’t discriminate: Its advertising targets both genders, while beer’s marketing focuses heavily on men.

(Another surprising millennial trend? Mocktails.)

It Actually Tastes Good

Customers claim to like hard cider for its apple flavor, reminiscent of fall cider or apple juice. It doesn’t share the dry taste of wine or the sour taste of beer, making it an easy drink to sip. This might be why it’s popular among a younger audience, since new drinkers don’t have the same tolerance for alcohol’s taste. Because the flavor of cider is such a selling point, most brands have been expanding their line of products. Since 2015, cider flavors such as ginger, espresso, cinnamon and pumpkin have emerged.

(We can’t get enough of pumpkin.)

You Can Cook with It!

Cooking with alcohol is nothing new—just think of beer-can chicken or rum cake. Check out our delicious recipes to make with your hard (or soft!) cider. You can use cider in place of wine in most savory recipes, too.

It’s Classically American

Hard cider isn’t a new drink by any means. In fact, it was the drink of choice in colonial America. In the same way different grapes yield different wines, different apples lead to different ciders, which meant plenty of variation for early settlers. If you’re trying to have the most authentic Thanksgiving feast, try throwing some Angry Orchard on the table.

Want to try more American recipes? Check out these 50 iconic American foods.

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