A lot of food holidays are arbitrary. (You just missed National Pizza With the Works Except Anchovies Day, for instance.) But National Apple Cider Day comes with a folkloric history.
According to legend, on November 18, 1307, William (Wilhelm) Tell and his son Walter were passing through the town square in the Swiss Alpine village of Altdorf. At the center of the square stood a pole, upon which the town bailiff, Gessler, had placed his hat. The hat stood for the imperial Austrian authority, under whose rule Switzerland was subjugated, and which Gessler represented. All who passed before the hat were to bow, upon penalty of death.
As can be expected with this type of legend, William Tell refused to bow. Gessler ordered Tell’s immediate arrest. Seeking to make an example of the dissident, Gessler then posed Tell, who was a known marksman, a simple challenge: shoot an apple from his son’s head, and both would be allowed to walk free. Miss, and both would die.
Tell took two arrows from the selection offered, and took aim at the apple atop Walter’s head. He shot cleanly through it. Tell was then asked what he had taken an additional arrow for, and he replied that had his son been harmed, it would have been for Gessler. At this second act of treason, Gessler refused to release Tell. Instead, he had him bound, and Gessler himself set off with Tell to bring him to jail in Kussnacht.
Had there not been a storm in sailing to Kussnacht, Apple Cider Day still might not have a backstory. Instead, a storm blew up on Lake Lucerne, and the crew released Tell, who was capable of steering the boat to shore. Tell leapt to shore himself, pushed the boat with Gessler and his crew back out onto the wind-whipped lake, and set off to Kussnacht. There, he awaited Gessler’s party, and as they approached in pursuit he shot Gessler through the heart. As the story goes, the act would spark a series of events that would lead to the Swiss revolution.
True or not, eight hundred years later people across the globe commemorate the folkloric incident by sipping cider on the same day.
Statue of William and Walter Tell in the town square in Altdorf, Switzerland.
Apple cider itself is more tightly bound up in American revolutionary history than in Swiss. It was a de facto national drink of choice around the time of the revolution, which circumvented colonial dependence on Old World imports like wine and tea. Another folk hero, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman), is to thank for taking seeds from Pennsylvania cider mills and planting the early states’ western frontiers with apple trees, paving the way for American expansionism. As pioneers moved west, hardy fruit awaited them. The apples were used not to eat (cider apples are extremely bitter, often to the point of inedibility) but to make cider, a safe alternative to water that likely helped many colonists, including children, survive.
Cider apples in Sister Bay, Wis.
Today, the joys of apple cider are being rediscovered. The fruit is so genetically diverse that the seed of any given apple will grow to produce a fruit entirely unique from its predecessor, meaning there is no shortage of apple varieties to be explored. Meanwhile, traditional American cider apples, used in colonial times and reproduced over the years by grafting, are resurfacing along with a cider culture that has begun to truly recover for the first time since Prohibition. Cider bars, cider festivals, cider pairings and cider cocktails – even cider mimosas – are all trending at breakneck speed.
Thanks to its renaissance, November 18 is certainly a day to celebrate.
Sources: Swiss Info, The Smithsonian, Ken B Travels, Sister Bay, The Boys Club and Cidercraft Magazine.
Above: The HOST Tilt Variable Aerator, featured in the November 2014 issue of Gourmet Business.
As a well-informed and thoughtfully curated resource for gourmet retailers, we have long followed Gourmet Business online magazine. As such, we were honored to be included in GB’s November issue, as the very first item in the feature article on innovative barware that is revolutionizing the category.
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The beverage industry is rebranding. Where the markers of the finest wines and liquors were once indecipherable French labeling, prestigious chateau designations and intricate design, today’s most enticing brands are bright, bold and modern.
Top left: Minneapolis’s Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky Five. Top right: Queseria La Antigua de Fuentesauco, inspired by vintage milk bottles. Bottom right: La Cale, France. Bottom left: Kabinet Brewery, Serbia.
The trend stems from both the producer and consumer sides. For producers, obstacles to joining the industry are ever fewer. New World wine regions are unlocking their potential, encouraging a plethora of new winemakers in regions from the Finger Lakes to South Africa and Walla Walla to New Zealand. Antiquated liquor laws are relaxing their grip on small-scale distillers. Beverages once considered second-tier, including beer and cider, have risen dramatically in quality and, accordingly, prestige. These advances have bred a healthy competition for consumers’ attention.
TL: Aluminum bottles support an outdoor adventure theme – Base Camp Brewing Co., Portland, Ore. TR: Niagara Oast House Brewers, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Center left: Calif.’s Stack Wines come packaged in four unbreakable take-anywhere vessels. Bottom: 450 North Brewing Co., Columbus, Ind. Below: Great Raft Brewing, Shreveport, La.
And more consumers are taking notice. Much has been made of the rising numbers of younger drinkers, especially Millennials. This generation is more adventurous than previous ones in its beverage decisions – nearly 15% of its members will try a new drink at any given bar, as compared to only 8% of the general population – and though Millennials’ spending power per capita is currently the lowest, overall spending power is expected to overtake every other market segment based on the generation’s raw numbers.
Millennials’ consumption patterns challenge producers to provide a unique experience sans wine snobbery at a low price point. These patterns reflect a larger democratization of beverage: where once fine wine and spirits served as status symbols, the movement to make them accessible across new demographics has simplified complex vocabulary, devalued pretense and made it okay for drinkers to like a beverage simply because it tastes good – no need to pick out all the subtle undertones and nuances.
TL: Rosso del Vigneto Nuovo bagged wine by Reverse Innovation. TR: Westbrook Brewing Co.‘s Gose, brewed in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. with coriander and sea salt. BR: Alcohol branding has crossed over into other specialty beverages, especially coffee. Here, Colo.’s Whiskey Barrel Coffee beans. BL: Paradise Gourmet Club coffee sampler in wood box.
As shelves fill with the bounties of a new guard of urban craft breweries and biodynamic micro-wineries, branding and packaging have become the most effective way to communicate accessibility and individuality. Bright colors, simplified labels and bold graphics are among the motifs of modern beverage packaging. Where vintage aesthetics are tied in, they are incorporated with a modern spin, and sometimes even ironically. Unconventional packaging shapes and functions are frequently used as building blocks of a unique brand identity. The overall outcome is a reconfiguration of the world of beverage as low-key, highly varied and enjoyable for everyone.
Above: A bottle of traditional Polish Nalewka designed by Foxtrot Studio in Warsaw.
Below: Where brands reach for traditional or handmade aesthetics, they often do so in a modern way. TL: Quebec’s Chic Choc Spiced Rum modernizes a classic look. TR: Stockholm-born global company Our/Vodka makes its liquor local by building microdistilleries in various cities, sourcing ingredients from nearby and naming the final product after that city. BR: Tennessee’s Ole Smoky Charred Moonshine, packaged in long-trending Mason jars. BL: Auckland, New Zealand’s Stolen’s Coffee & Cigarettes Spiced Rum goes for a handmade look.
Product popularity reflects the same trends. Brightly colored and playful beverage accessories have been enjoying steady increases in popularity, as have vintage pieces with a modern spin. Click to shop top sellers.
Photo credits: Punch Drink, The Dieline, Uncrate.
- 1. Metallic Holiday Stoppers;
- 2. Whirl Aerating Wine Glasses;
- 3. Classic Decanter;
- 4. Twist Adjustable Aerator;
- 5. Wine Stem Springs;
- 6. Festive Waiter’s Corkscrews;
- 7. Kingsley Penguin Corkscrew;
- 8. Digital Wine Thermometer;
- 9. Bottle Gift Box;
- 10. ZinZig Wine Tasting Trivia Game;
- 11. Eiffel Tower Cork Holder