When we started CiderScene, we were in an environment, within our inner and outer circle, where not much was known about hard cider. In addition, I was in a southern state that was not well-acquainted with soft or hard cider. Given that fact, I heard several common questions come my direction. Isn’t cider just a sugary drink? Does cider have alcohol in it? Are there even that many ciders in the US? Why drink cider when you can drink beer? The most common I got, though, took the form of “isn’t cider a girly drink”?
This, by and large, was something I was not prepared to hear. Sure, when I was in college, the time in which many drinking preferences start to form, we knew certain girls that liked sweet, fruity drink, but we drank beer, cider, and those fruity drinks just the same. Some of the sugary drinks we would consume were namely Woodchucks, Angry Orchard, and UV lemonade – don’t judge us too harshly for the last one (balling on a budget). As my brother and I were open-minded to many beverages, we just didn’t see this stereotype like other might have in the same capacity.
In wanting to get different perspectives to why this stereotype and similar stereotypes exist, we asked our cider fans for their thoughts. We got back a wide range of answers from women actually liking sugary drinks more than men to the marketing built around most commercial products to men trying to act like something they are not — afraid to drink what they want to drink. I really do think it has a lot to do with marketing, myself, and the fragility of the male ego, at times in youth, but it may have some physiological element to it, too.
To narrow our focus, we will be delving into two aspects, the physiological impact of gender in consumption of food and beverage & the impact of gender marketing.
In reading deeper about this topic, I came across several studies and personal blog posts discussing this topic. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine mentions that in their studies they find that men crave savory food more often than women who tend to prefer sweeter foods. The article also indicates that when it comes to sugary items, its men that prefer to drink their sweetness and women prefer to eat it, in the form of cakes or ice cream. It doesn’t paint a clear picture of how men or women’s drinking behaviors are tied to sugar in comparison.
Another study in 2003 study published in the Physiology & Behavior journal, researchers from the University of Illinois concluded that “both gender and age influence one’s preference of comfort foods.” They found that women tend to go for comfort foods like ice cream and chocolate while guys opted for pizza/pasta/burger variety. Again, showing women prefer more of the sugary options, but not in the sense of beverage consumption.
My favorite article does to Skepchick’s site. Here is a link to her website article. She tackles the “badge of honor” men tend to wear when they consume things that are bitter like black coffee or eating a massive hunk of meat. It talks to not be afraid to like what you like, but it got my brain going down a specific through the process. I went to the core of this concept men trying to show masculinity and how it could have been done hundreds of years.
Back in the day, there were several ways for a man to prove his “worth” and one of those methods would be to fight, shoot a gun, or eat the most burnt piece of meat, giving the more delicate, softer items to the wife and kids. I am not shooting for one particular point in history but a long, drawn process of showing boys and girls what is “manly” and that a proper lady should be consuming delicate, not too bitter, not too salty treats. Instead, they consume the finger foods with the fine coursing flavor of sugar filling its veins. This history, this conditioning over time generates the stereotype that marketers have been perpetuating and praying on for decades.
Generalized statements about gender and consumption may have some hint of truth to it, but the beauty of most things in life is the ability to choose. I think that a certain stereotype drives men away from what they either want to try or from moving past more of the commercial products to the craft products one layer deeper. In many ways, it seems, that the wine, beer, and liquor industry have to perpetuate these stereotypes and throw dollars into creating habits for a subset of society. Men & women fall into these traps and, in turn, perpetuate these stereotypes further.
Given most people start their drinking careers in or around a college town or have smaller liquor stores when they start drinking, they generally are going to spring for brands with instant recognition, leading you to more processed, sugary options. If this is what men are seeing and the fear of that stereotype hits them, they are going to steer away from these products altogether. All of these overly commercial products should come with a sign of hazard, in a way.
Think about craft beer for a minute. It doesn’t have as of a stereotype, especially in the college circle of drinking. It is simply the first cheap layer to a much deeper beer industry that men & women indulge in. They have more of the cheap commercial beer promoted to them, lower gender stereotypes, and they buy it when it’s cheap. This starts a beer preference and gives an increased likelihood that they will delve into the world of craft beer. The same can’t be said for cider as most of the commercial ciders are considered girly because they are overly sweet.
If someone does not want to fight a stereotype at a party and/or does not like sugary options, they likely pass right by the sugary cider options or never taste one at all. So, it’s not that cider is a girly drink or made for women, men just tend to fear being seen as an individual consuming colorful, sweet drinks and never make it to that second tier of consumption. This is where the craft cider options would have revealed themselves to a consumer.
If there is anything I have learned in this industry, you need to have an open palate to many items to see what you might like. I have tried kombucha, hard kombucha, hard teas, wine, beer, soft, cider, hard cider, hard sodas, craft sodas, etc. to see if there are things that appeal to me. And I also tend to look for smaller, more local brands to identify truer, less commercial flavors to base my opinion on. Do I love kombucha and hard kombucha? Yes, but I have had many that I do not enjoy. I could only come to that conclusion by trying a variety of options.
The funniest part of this entire concept of cider being girly is the history of hard cider in the United States. Hard cider was the drink of choice for our founding fathers. Cider is in the bloodstream of the world and would have been as present today if it were not for Prohibition. Hard cider, too, is very similar to wine and can share the wealth of flavors, sweetness, dryness, and complexity. Somehow the narrative on cider got lost along the way, but most cidermaking remains true to its craft. Cidermakers all across the US and world are making ciders for all types of drinkers and take as much time with their products as beer makers and winemakers.
To really drive home the answer of if cider is a girly drink, the answer is an absolute no. The name of the game is going out and trying options. Go down the cider aisle or go to a larger liquor store and find something that appeals to you. If you like sugary drinks, there are beer, cider, wine, etc. options for you. If you like hops, there are plenty of hopped ciders. Do you like barrel-aged beverages? Guess what? There are tons of hard ciders aged in barrels. You can’t disapprove of an entire section of the liquor store if you haven’t sampled at least some of it before. Who knows, you might like ciders that contain fewer calories and lower sugar counts than what you currently drink. Explore, understand, and have an open mind.