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Hard cider generally gained the “hard” aspect of its name as a method of differentiating apple cider (non-alcoholic) from the alcoholic version. For many years, individuals spoke to the hard beverage as, simply, cider, or sweet cider overseas. But when did people start used the word hard to describe hard cider? And why did people started using “hard” as a naming convention for alcoholic beverages? Let’s investigate.
The History of the Word” Hard”
The word “hard” was apparently first used in the Germanic “Beowulf, written in 700 AD. It was in reference to something that was firm, rough, or stubborn – essentially ways in which we still use it. It evolved into one of the more modern meanings of unpleasant and harsh nearer the 16th century and saw some application to alcoholic beverages given their sharp and harsher flavor and boozy punch (likely even harsher give the time period)!
The word “hard” also, from the 16th century to the 17th century changed from harsh or unpleasant to describing something that is strong and/or potent (something with potency). In a 1739 dictionary, hard was defined as rough and rugged, a further refinement of the usage in the 16th century sharing much of the same sentiment.
In the early 1800s, Webster’s Dictionary actually used the word hard used to describe booze as acidic, sour, and austere. The use of the term is “the cider is hard”.
The History and Usage of Hard In Reference to Cider
With such a rich history of the word and even a mention of cider being hard in the 1800s, when did we first see the term “hard cider”?
Thanks to research done by Mark Turdo’s website, we know the term was not first used in America. It was a British term used to describe “freeze”, a cheap form of cider. The 1690’s dictionary called freeze a “thin hard cyder”. Several other documents in the 18th century seem to mention the same thing. In the 1840s election, we see the usage of hard cider in campaign materials. Also discussed in our history of hard cider article, campaign ads mentioned hard cider as a means of outlining President Harrison’s tie to the rich, rustic history of the US. It showcases hard cider being rooted in American culture and he is a president for the good ole farm folk raised in US tradition.
With the aforementioned references of hard cider in history, it seems to suggest that we first used “hard” to define cider before any common usage for other types of alcohol — like hard liquor. We had a hard time finding any reference to hard liquor or the use of hard to describe other forms of booze. If you have any details on that, be sure to send us an email at email@example.com!
It’s interesting how the term hard is applied to all boozy items like hard cider, hard liquor, hard seltzer, etc. Obviously a quick method to differentiate the boozy from the bland. The name just makes sense, too. What stronger or harder than a hit of alcohol – strong on the nose and on the tongue. Ironically, liquor companies try to get away from the harsh term, using softer terms in ads. While some companies like Mike’s Hard steer into the booziness, for college kids trying to get a buzz, brands that are more sophisticated want to speak to the bountiful flavors without the reminder that the drink can give you the shivers. Sample below of a company trying to avoid the term!
If you want to simply go off common knowledge or understanding, we often like to think of things as hot or cold, blue or red, and it is really the same for drinks. It is much easier to apply one word for all boozy drinks, hard, and leave everything else as soft or without a descriptor. That’s why soft drinks make sense. Marketing and identification are key – even if some companies don’t want consumers to think this way as those in the hard liquor industry.
These naming conventions help a consumer make the decision. Are they are drinking to get drunk or are they just there to quench their thirst without a hangover. Use the word, categorize, and leave the public less confused.