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Blog Post: Drink Up Thee Cider (part two)…


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And here’s the follow up to our first piece about cider glasses (and other associated goings on of an uproarious nature); on with the details about how such vessels might be identified. and of the reason why some examples may bear a particular inscription:

….it is not until the 1750’s that anything which can be designated a bespoke cider glass is to be found. These earliest pieces are discerned not by a particular shape or form. but by the fact that they bear wholly unambiguous engravings – apple tree branches laden with fruit. codlin moths (the abiding pest which has afflicted orchards for centuries). wooden barrels (long associated with the drink. as its taxable unit of measure was the hogshead) and mottos.

Of the inscribed words. the use of “cyder” is perfectly obvious. as – in context – are the few glasses which include the legend “NO EXCISE” alongside their cider-related motifs. This was added by the engravers as a comment on the imposition of additional taxation – specifically on cider – by the Government of 1763 under Earl Bute in order to underwrite the soaring cost of Britain’s participation in The Seven Years War. and was a contraction of a popular anti-taxation rallying cry of the day. Bute was an already unpopular figure. and when his imposition of the tax provoked civil unrest in cider-producing areas. it was the last straw for his political career. and he resigned amidst the clamour. general distemper and accusations of sexual impropriety. Bute would certainly have had plenty of scope for extra-marital shenanigans while his wife. Mary Wortley-Montagu was confined. as the couple managed to propagate eleven children ! Meanwhile. the revolting bumpkins (as opposed to the Smashing Pumpkins – different thing entirely…) were to be reprieved nor conciliated. and Bute’s successor – George Grenville – ensured that the Cider Bill stayed on the statute book. amidst much rattling of pitchforks. fractious hoisting of smocks and furrowing of ruddy countenances.

Back on to a more studious tack. and Hartshorne’s investigations only seem to have turned up cider vessels with uniformly small. ogee style bowls. his conclusion being that the cider of the day was of such a strength as to be taken in relatively small measures. as if it was a fortified wine. Our own dealings have. however. happened upon several examples of undoubted cider glasses – also 18th century –  which are in the form of more capacious and elongated funnel or conical bowls. which only reinforces the assertion that there was no uniform acceptance of what constituted a “proper” cider glass.

The fact that one of the glasses which we have listed bears the word “cyder” also prompted some debate. in that it was mooted as to whether there might be any difference in connotation between that and the more normal form of “cider”. It would. however. seem to be nothing more than the legacy of a normal variant in spelling for a common word over the passage of time. and modern claims that cyder referred and refers to a particularly high quality product are nothing more than a marketing affectation to justify a hike in retail price – note how often the words “cyder” and “artisan” appear in close proximity – an absolute give-away and no mistake ! Furthermore. any claim that cyder was the name – exclusively – for the product of single pressing using one type of apple as opposed to an inferior “blended” product from mixed stock can be utterly refuted by the publication of a “cyder” recipe in 1750 listing four different varieties as the constituent pomaceous ingredients – nice try. marketeers. now do feel free to have another go…

Finally – rather than the usual pictures of fusty old  glasses – I’ve posted a cartoon from the 1763 which shows Earl Bute strung up on the gibbet by a mob (presumably of conniptious agrarian dullards) one of whom is carting a ”cyder barrel” over his shoulders (also note the flag which bears the “liberty. property and no excise” slogan) – and some folk think that Steve Bell and Private Eye are a bit near the knuckle on occasion !

That said. there will no doubt be approbation and censure aplenty if I do not also exhort you to browse through the many fine cider related items listed on our site. before buying them. so if you could please do that via the link below. that’d be just dandy – many thanks !


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