During the 1840 presidential election, opponents of William Henry Harrison portrayed him as a hard-drinking bumpkin. In a savvy act of political jujitsu, Harrison embraced the charge, branding his campaign paraphernalia with a portrait of pure Americana: a log cabin and a barrel of cider. Harrison rode the image to a 234-60 Electoral College victory over incumbent Martin Van Buren.
Shortly after the Harrison landslide, Americans would begin to drift away from his beloved libation. (He was spared the pain of witnessing its decline, succumbing to pneumonia only a month into his presidency.) A century later, cider would be almost completely forgotten. Most Americans now consider cider—if they consider it at all—to be in the same category as wine coolers or those enigmatic clear malt beverages: chemically suspect, effeminate alternatives to beer. And who can blame them? America’s mass-market ciders are comically weak and inexplicably fizzy. Many are made not from cider apples but from the concentrated juice of eating apples, which is a bit like making wine from seedless table grapes.