Next to straight cider, cider royal was the most common cider-based beverage in early America.
Cider royal is a fortified drink, made by blending cider with a distilled spirit, like French brandy or apple brandy. To make it cider royal one also has to add what was called sweets (a boiled syrup of sugar, water, and egg whites) and letting it condition for several months to several years.
Last fall I fermented a batch of cyder intended for royalling and fortifying. Once the cyder was finished in the spring I made a batch of sweets according to one of William Salmon’s 1710 receipts.
After the sweets had cleared and cooled I added French brandy (I used French brandy for the simple reason that it was on sale) and then blended the the fortified sweets with the cyder. I let them condition for five months before bottling.
As part of the experiment, I also made a one-gallon batch of fortified cyder, just adding a quantity of French brandy to straight cyder.
To figure out the final alcohol content for both the cider royal and the fortified I used a Pearson’s Square. Based on the proportions they both went from being a straight cyder at 7% ABV to fortified cyders at 10%.
Last week I bottled everything and sampled both.
As you can see the fortified cyder is clearer. It also has a noticeable alcohol burn on the tongue.
The cyder royal is cloudy, sweeter, and smoother. In some ways the cider royal is definitely closer in profile to modern industrial ciders (but without carbonation).
I wonder if one of the reasons cider royal was popular was because the sweets helped overcome any harsh sharpness or other extremes in the cider. Having a higher alcohol content probably didn’t hurt either.