With nothing added but time, after 5,000 years, cider says summer like nothing else
Henry James surely caught it just right, when he remarked: "Summer afternoon - to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." As Ireland bathed in the unexpected glow of prolonged sunshine yesterday, it was a sentiment found in full flight everywhere from park benches to rooftop spaces and busy beaches.
Every Irish person has their own distinct vision of the perfect sunny day - a time and place that best sums up the joy of easy living. For many, it's that evening drink outside a seaside pub, anywhere from Bundoran to Tramore and Skerries to Dingle, watching sailboats framed in the setting sun. And as for the ideal potion to accompany this flawless scene, cider is increasingly the tipple that says summertime like nothing else. All around the country this weekend, gallons of this amber nectar will be quaffed as we clink glasses and hope for more: "Without a doubt, 2016 will be a cracking good summer."
Not so long ago, cider suffered from a definite downbeat image, seen as a cheap alcoholic option in garish aluminium cans or over-sized plastic flagon bottles. Back in my boarding school days, we called it 'jungle juice' and tapped our cigarette ash into it on the fallacy of generating extra potency. How I managed to pass the Leaving Cert remains a mystery to this day. The sea change for cider came with those seductive TV adverts from Bulmers in the early 2000s, showing beautiful people partying happily outside gorgeous country pubs, resulting in a rocketing sales graph.