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​Cider: Bringing back a forgotten drink

Faith Salie learns how hard apple cider is made and why the centuries' old brew has become cool again
Cider: Bringing back a forgotten drink 03:40

Modern-day artisans are still making cider . . . "hard core" cider, you might call it. Faith Salie can tell us all about that:

In New York's Hudson Valley, Andy Brennan is making cider one apple at a time.

Brennan and his wife, Polly, own Aaron Burr Cidery, a mom-and-pop operation that has the finest restaurants in Manhattan, 90 miles south, lining up for bottles of the hard stuff.

Using apples he's grown, bought or foraged from abandoned trees, Brennan's process is remarkably simple: grind the apples, then squeeze out the juice.

He uses every bit of the apple.

The juice is stored for six months to one year to ferment and turn into what Americans call "hard cider." The sweeter the apple, the higher the alcohol level.

The Aaron Burr Cidery in Wurtsboro, N.Y., where a centuries-old cider-making tradition is flourishing. CBS News

"That'll ferment out somewhere around seven-and-a-half percent," said Brennan . . . about the same as a strong beer.

Brennan's way of making cider is an ode to the past. "Our founding forefathers -- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington -- they were accomplished orchardists," said cider expert David Flaherty, marketing director at the Washington State Wine Commission. "They were pressing their own apples, fermenting their own cider."

The presidents carried on a cider-making tradition that started centuries earlier in Europe. With apples aplenty, cider was more readily available than clean drinking water.

But by the 1920s, nearly all of the cider apples were gone.

"Before Prohibition hit, there were teetotalers that were going around and literally cutting down orchards by the thousands," said Flaherty. "And it's only today, 75 to 100 years later, that we're getting back into it."

"Would you say we're in a cider renaissance?" asked Salie.

"This is cider's return!" he said.

Today, cider's the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage in America.

As to the core of the appeal? Flaherty says, "Cider is kind of a bridge between wine and beer."

At the Queens Kickshaw in New York City, self-styled "Pommelier" Ben Sandler and his wife, Jen Lim, serve more than 30 different ciders.

"I like to think that there's a cider for everyone," said Lim.

To which Sandler added, "Cider is becoming cool."

Correspondent Faith Salie samples ciders with Ben Sandler, proprietor of the Queens Kickshaw. CBS News

It's becoming SO cool the couple is opening Wassail, a cider-only bar -- naturally, on Orchard Street.

Sale asked, "Do you think there's something sentimental about drinking cider? All kids love apple juice, right? Is this like a grown-up juice box?"

"You said it best -- that's exactly what it is!" laughed Sandler.

And he says one of the best ciders he sells comes from Andy Brennan's upstate cidery. "The cider that they make is delicious. It's phenomenal. And they put in a lot of care."

Indeed, making apple cider the same way our forefathers did takes a lot of patience, but for Brennan, the art of bringing back a forgotten drink is as sweet as can be.

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