For centuries, Germans have known a fact that Americans are only just beginning to realize: A refreshing glass of alcoholic apple cider is the perfect summer drink. Originally born from environmental necessity (the German climate is more conducive to growing apples than grapes), Apfelwein has a long and storied history. The traditional drink was poured out of painted stoneware pitchers called bembel into easy-to-grip faceted glasses (before we routinely used silverware, a glass that wouldn’t become slippery in greasy hands was essential).
While these traditions are charming, drinking Apfelwein was in danger of becoming a thing of the past, more admired than enjoyed. Clearly, the venerable drink needed some updating to appeal to 21st-century Americans. Today’s Apfelwein is carbonated, comes in exotic flavors, and is packaged in eye-catching cans. But it is still pressed from apples harvested from the gnarled old trees of the Oldenwald, a wooded mountain range overlooking the Rhine Valley.
An expert panel covers the history of Apfelwein, how it’s made, and what changes were wrought to bring this traditional drink to a contemporary audience. Participants include Lars Dahlhaus, owner and founder of Liquid Projects LLC; Christoph Trares, managing director of one of Germany’s best-known cider brands, Bembel-With-Care; and cider makers and journalists Ronald Sansone and William Grote. Afterward, join them for a tasting of several flavors of Apfenwein from Bembel-with-Care, including a new cider–cola mix.