Non-alcoholic cider: how it’s made and the best products to try
Cider is a hugely popular drink in the UK – so much so, it is drunk here more than anywhere else in the world. Research from 2019 shows an average UK household brings home approximately 33 litres of cider every year. It isn’t hard to see why the drink is consumed all year round. The delicious sweetness from apples and the sharpness from the alcohol, rounded off with a light fizz is the perfect accompaniment to any beer garden soirée or a picnic in the park. Spiced or mulled versions have also become well-liked during the festive period, and a lighter but just as sweet alternative to mulled wine.
The past few years have also seen an explosion in non-alcoholic options for people who still want to enjoy the taste and experience of the cider without the effects of alcohol. While the alcohol free category still tends to be dominated by beer alternatives, alcohol free cider is also getting its chance to shine in the UK, allowing people who are trying to cut down on their consumption or follow a teetotal lifestyle to still have an enjoyable cider drinking experience.
What is it?
While you might think cider without alcohol is just apple juice, don’t be misled as it has a very different taste! Non-alcoholic ciders are not as sweet and aim to give drinkers the same distinguishable tangy notes that the traditional drink has. Alcohol-free cider also tends to be lower in calories, making it a favourable option for those looking out for their health or their weight.
How is it made?
While alcoholic and alcohol-free ciders are different drinks, they are both made using a similar process. Like beer, both types of cider are fermented. To turn traditional cider into a 0.0% version, it then goes through a dealcoholisation process, where alcohol is removed from the drink in a manner that doesn’t hinder the traditional taste or mouthfeel of cider that consumers still desire.
When did non-alcoholic cider first appear on the market?
Unlike the alcohol free version, alcoholic cider has a long history, and it is predicted to have been first made by the Celts in Britain from crab apples in around 3000 BCE. The Roman invasion of the country around 55 BCE then brought in apple cultivars, orcharding, and new apple varieties, as the Norman invasion also did later in 1066.
In comparison, non-alcoholic cider has appeared a lot more recently, as the low and no alcohol sector has witnessed a significant boom in popularity and innovation. Coinciding with the pandemic, between 2020 and 2022 the number of consumers who have started to look out for their health has increased, and consequently many want to cut down on drinking. As a result, a several brands have developed what is some of the best alcohol-free cider on the UK market.
The best products in the non alcoholic cider category
A range of popular brands, perhaps more well-known for their traditional ciders, have started stocking their own zero alcohol versions in local supermarkets.
Kopparberg, the Swedish brand which is renowned for its fruit-flavoured ciders, has started producing an alcohol-free range with several flavours, including Mixed Fruit, Strawberry & Lime, Mixed Fruit Tropical, and Pear, making them some of the best non-alcoholic ciders for fans of a more fruity beverage.
A popular name in the English world of cider is Thatchers, which has been made by one family for four generations since 1904. While they may be more known for their wide selection of flavours, which range from the classic Thatchers Gold and Haze to Blood Orange and Rosé, in 2020 they launched Thatchers Zero, their non-alcoholic apple cider. The company says the unique blend of bittersweet apples is what helps it still have a full-bodied flavour, and makes it an enjoyable drink despite the lack of alcohol. In the past two years the drink has won silver in the 2021 World Cider Awards, Best No & Lo Cider for the Imbibe 2020 No & Lo Taste Awards, and Gold in the 2021 Taste of the West awards.
Another well-liked name in the cider sector is Magners, which has been producing its drinks since 1935. Among their selection of classic blends which include Original, Dark Fruit, and Rosé, is the 0.0%, offering a refreshing alcohol-free alternative to the original Irish cider recipe.
Craft alcohol-free ciders
While several well-known brands in the cider industry have released their own non-alcoholic options, innovation is also growing quickly in the craft cider sector, with both established and new names entering the field with some of the best non-alcoholic cider in the UK.
Some of successful names on the market include The Good Cider of San Sebastian, a popular Spanish brand which has produced several award-winning drinks since it was founded in 1918. Produced from apples grown in Lerida in Northern Spain, their zero alcohol apple cider is also gluten free and vegan.
Wignac is another cider company which has established itself in the European and British alcohol-free cider market more recently. Based in the dense forest region of the Belgian Ardennes, it aims to revive the local orchards and bring new jobs to the region. Wignac prides itself on producing organic drinks, containing no added sugar, no sulphites, and being naturally gluten-free. Its alcohol-free concoction is given the quirky name, La Lady Squirrel.
In comparison to the other craft cider brands out there, DRYNKS is a relatively new addition to the non alcoholic cider world, being established in 2017. Out of all of the brands mentioned so far, it is also the most unique in that it exclusively focuses on developing alcohol-free lagers and ciders. The brand offers two flavours – Smashed Cider, an alternative to apple cider, and Smashed Berry, a mixed fruits cider alternative.
French cider brand Maison SASSY’s 0% organic cider is one of the latest releases in the non- alcoholic apple cider category, having launched in the UK in January 2022. The drink is made from a variety of apples grown in the company’s family orchards in Normandy. Maison SASSY says its apples are specifically grown for use in cider as opposed to cooking or eating fresh. The drink is made into a traditional 4% ABV cider and is then dealcoholised to 0%, with the same mouthfeel and taste as the original alcoholic version, according to the company. It is also vegan, gluten-free, and contains no added sugars, or added water.
For fans of the festive season who would rather skip the conventional Christmas hangover, mulled cider which is non-alcoholic is still an untapped area. Several brands do offer their own non alcoholic mulled syrups, which can be added to a warmed up version of an alcohol free cider to give a similar experience. William Fox Mulled Spice Syrup, and Simply Hot Spiced Apple Winter Warmer Syrup offer their own premixed syrups to add to drinks, and there are also plenty of alcohol free recipes available online.
If you enjoy the sweetness of cider, you may also be a fan of the Brothers Toffee Apple – a rich drink which mixes in notes of cream soda and toffee. Made by four brothers in Somerset, this popular English cider now has a non-alcoholic version to fix any sweet-toothed cravings.
When looking broadly at the alcohol-free drinks market, you might initially argue non–alcohol cider has been left behind in comparison to the large selection of non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spirits out there. While it may still be less tapped than other sectors, there is an impressive variety of brands developing products for the non-alcoholic cider market. They are taking note of the growing consumer demand for alcohol free beverages, and developing drinks containing the same sweet and tangy drinking experience in a traditional cider, without the risk of a hangover.