The tradition of hard cider in Britain spans centuries, with a rich history and a variety of flavours that have evolved over time. This delightful beverage is made from fermented apple juice and has long been a part of British culture. It is cherished for its refreshing taste. From the quaint orchards of the countryside to the bustling cities, hard cider continues to hold a special place in the hearts of the British people. This article explores the fascinating world of British hard cider, from its traditional roots to the exciting modern varieties that are captivating taste buds today.

The History of British Hard Cider

 History of British Hard Cider

The roots of British hard cider can be traced back to ancient times when apples were first introduced to the country by the Romans. Early Britons quickly embraced the art of cider-making, utilizing wild apples and simple fermentation methods to create this beverage. Over the centuries, cider production has become more refined, with dedicated orchards and specialized apple varieties improving cider quality and taste.

During the medieval era, cider-making flourished in monasteries, where skilled monks crafted flavourful ciders enjoyed by nobility and commoners alike. In the 17th century, cider experienced a golden age when it became the drink of choice for many in England, even surpassing beer in popularity. With the entrance of William the Conqueror in 1066, French influences further enhanced the cider-making process and strengthened its position in British culture.

The Art of Cider Making

Traditional cider-making in Britain is a labour of love and craftsmanship. Orchards are carefully tended throughout the year, and the apples are harvested in the autumn when they are ripe and juicy. The apples are then sorted and pressed to extract the juice. Then the juice is left to ferment naturally with the help of wild yeasts.

The fermentation process can take several months, during which the cider develops a distinctive taste and character. After fermentation, the cider is often aged in wooden barrels, which further fortifies its complexity and depth. Traditional cider-making is a celebration of the natural flavours of apples and the terroir of the orchards, which ultimately results in a drink that embodies the essence of the British countryside.

Traditional Cider Varieties

 Traditional Cider Varieties

British hard cider is renowned for its diverse range of traditional varieties, each offering unique flavours and characteristics. Some of the classic cider apple varieties include:

Kingston Black

Known for its bittersweet flavour and high tannin content, the Kingston Black apple contributes complexity and depth to traditional ciders.


With a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, the Dabinett apples create well-rounded and easy-to-drink ciders.

Yarlington Mill

This apple variety is valued for its distinctive nutty taste and subtle astringency, lending a unique character to ciders.

Brown Snout

Brown Snout apples add a delightful spiciness to ciders and enhance the overall flavour of the cider.

Other Varieties of Traditional Hard Cider Include:

 Scrumpy Cider

Scrumpy Cider

Scrumpy is a term used to describe traditional farmhouse ciders that are often unfiltered and unpasteurized. These ciders have a rustic and full-bodied taste, with a strong apple flavour and a slight cloudiness from the apple solids.


Perry is a traditional cider made from fermented pear juice, which is similar to apple cider. It has a milder and light sweeter taste compared to apple cider with delicate pear notes.

Dry Cider

Dry ciders have minimal residual sweetness and allow the natural tartness of the apples to shine through. The drink is crisp, refreshing, and popular among those who prefer a less sweet beverage.

Sweet Cider

On the opposite end of the spectrum, sweet ciders have a higher level of residual sugar which results in a more pronounced sweetness and a smooth, juicy taste.

Medium Cider

Medium ciders strike a balance between dry and sweet varieties, offering a harmonious combination of sweetness and tartness.

Single Varietal Ciders

These ciders are made using a single apple variety, allowing the unique flavour of that particular apple to be highlighted.

Traditional Oak-Aged Ciders

Ciders aged in oak barrels acquire subtle woody and vanilla notes and add complexity and depth to the flavour.

Farmhouse Ciders

Farmhouse ciders are made using traditional methods, often relying on wild yeast for fermentation and featuring apples from old, heritage orchards.

Still Ciders

Still ciders are flat and not carbonated, offering a smooth and natural taste experience.

Sparkling Ciders

Sparkling ciders are effervescent and bubbly and created either through natural fermentation or by adding carbonation.

Modern Cider Revival

 Modern Cider Revival

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in hard cider, with a new wave of innovative and modern ciders captivating consumers. Craft cider producers are experimenting with a wide range of apple varieties, blending techniques, and flavour infusions to create exciting and dynamic ciders.

Modern Varieties of Hard Cider

Craft cideries across Britain are pushing the boundaries of traditional cider-making to introduce unique flavours to cater to diverse palates. These modern ciders often appeal to the younger generation, who seek more adventurous and refreshing beverages.

Elderflower Cider

Infused with the delicate and floral notes of elderflower, this cider offers a refreshing and aromatic taste.

Rhubarb Cider

Blending the tartness of rhubarb with the sweetness of apples creates a balanced and tangy flavour.

Berry Blends

Ciders infused with a mix of berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries, add vibrant colours and fruity taste.

Spiced Ciders

Ciders with added spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger offer a warm and comforting twist to traditional flavours.

Hopped Ciders

Incorporating hops into cider production creates a delightful fusion of beer and cider characteristics, appealing to beer lovers as well.

Citrus Ciders

Infused with zesty citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, or grapefruits, these ciders offer a bright and tangy taste.

Tropical Ciders

Combining exotic fruits like mango, passion fruit or pineapple with apples results in a tropical and refreshing cider experience.

Chai Spiced Ciders

Inspired by the traditional Indian chai tea, these ciders incorporate spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves for a unique and aromatic flavour.

Peppercorn Ciders

Adding peppercorns to the cider gives a subtle peppery kick to the drink that complements the natural sweetness of apples.

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Ciders

Ciders aged in bourbon barrels acquire rich and complex flavours with hints of oak, vanilla, and caramel.

Cider-Infused with Herbs

Ciders infused with herbs like rosemary, thyme, or lavender offer a savoury and aromatic twist on traditional flavours.


 British hard cider

British hard cider is more than just a beverage - it is an essential part of the country's heritage and cultural identity. From its ancient origins to the modern cider revival, this delightful drink has journeyed through time, evolving and adapting to the changing preferences and taste of the nation.