Cider is enjoyed across the world, not least in the U.K and Ireland, where i am from. However, you will have noticed the huge strides the non alcoholic and alcohol free sector is making into the traditional alcoholic market.
Many people can’t or won’t drink alcohol, for a host of different reasons. These might be personal, religious or medical.
Observant Muslims must not drink alcoholic drinks as these are considered haram under Islamic law. Is alcohol free Cider halal? How do you go about figuring out if it is allowed or not?
Is alcohol free Cider halal?
As a general rule, alcohol free cider can be Halal. The cider needs to be 0.0% ABV for the strict Islamic Law to deem it Halal. Many of the major cider players, are launching their alcohol free equivalents. However, not all non or low alcoholic ciders are 0.0% ABV, meaning it is critical to read the label.
There is much to think about in terms of islamic law and what alcohol may or may not be in a bottle of alcohol free cider before you can decide if it is Halal or not.
Is alcoholic cider halal?
This simple answer is “no” of course.
This should be an easy starting point, with not much argument but it serves a purpose to see what the Islamic laws are the make alcohol haram.
The Prophet Muhammad says in the Quran “Every intoxicant is Khamr and every intoxicant is forbidden. He who drinks wine in this world and dies while he is addicted to it, not having repented, will not be given a drink in the Hereafter.”
This can be a very complex topic with many variations across the Islamic world. The simple way of looking at this is that any alcoholic drink, or drink that can get a person intoxicated, is banned or haram. There can be some variation on the thinking of this tho.
What is Khamr
One of the arguments in Islamic law is, is only grape juice and wine haram, or all alcohols.
Khamr is the Arabic word for wine and intoxication. A minority would argue that only wine is haram due to this word. Indeed some majority Muslim countries produce spirits like aarack. Egypt produces wine.
From my research, this appears to be a bit of an outlier position and the majority of the Muslim world would consider all alcohols, including cider, haram.
Even a mouthful
A conservative view would be any amount of an intoxicating liquid is banned, even a mouthful. The phrase “even a drop” is used. Where there may be differing practice is if an alcohol is <0.5% ABV and labelled as “non alcoholic”, can this be Halal? Can you get drunk on non alcoholic or alcohol free cider?
Can you get drunk on alcohol free cider?
To pass the “even a mouthful” test, alcohol free cider shouldn’t be able to get you drunk.
A standard alcoholic cider would be 5% ABV, meaning you would need to drink 100 alcohol free ciders (at 0.05% or less ABV) to equal one alcoholic cider.
The USDA tell us it would take 4 standard 12fl oz or 350ml 5% ciders to get the average 160lb adult male drunk.
That means you would need to drink 400 alcohol free ciders over 1-2 hours to get drunk. This is not possible so it is impossible to get drunk on alcohol free cider. Therefore, it should pass the “even a mouthful” test.
The stricter approach is to look for alcohol free drinks with specific Halal Certification. There are wines and some spirits but i have yet so see a cider one.
Can you get drunk on non alcoholic cider?
A non alcoholic cider can have up to x10 the alcohol that an alcohol free cider can have. Although this is still only up to 0.5% ABV.
This means you would need to drink 40 non alcoholic ciders over 1-2 hours to get drunk. Whilst this might be possible, it is very hard to do and most people would not be able to. However there is less certainly than for the alcohol free ciders.
For comparison, orange juice would have 0.5% ABV and it is not considered haram as it is not made specifically to be alcoholic, it is a by product of natural fermentation.
There is a further consideration which i have came across on the internet, that if you are drinking a non alcoholic equivalent of an alcoholic drink, with others who are drinking alcohol, mimicking them, then this could possibly be considered Haram although that takes the context of the drink a step further.
If you are just in your own home with your own family drinking a 0.0% alcoholic drink then this wouldn’t be haram for the purposes of mimicking.
Below is my guide as to what level of alcohol content in the non alcoholic cider world might be considered halal or haram
|ABV %||Likelihood of being considered Halal|
|<1.2% – Low alcohol||Very unlikely to be considered Halal|
|<0.5% – Non alcoholic||Possibly can be considered Halal|
|0.0% – Alcohol free||Can be considered Halal|
|0.0% – Halal Certified||Should be considered Halal|
If there is no halal certification can you trust that the law states alcohol free and 0.0% ABV means just that and this will be inspected and tested independently? The law allows 0.5% ABV variance in the UK. So a 0.5% cider could be 1%. Could a 0.05% cider be 0.55%?
I think it’s very unlikely with modern brewing and computer techniques. Major cider companies marketing 0.0% drinks would not want the PR of not being this. Take Thatchers Zero for example, they are a big outfit and will be keeping more than a close eye on their alcohol by volume output.
Non alcoholic cider definitions
So far i have used a few different terms for a low to no alcohol cider. This whole section can be confusing so it is worth going over what some of the terms actually mean.
Below is the legal framework in the UK and USA for what names you will see on a label mean.
|Description on label||Maximum ABV content|
Where this starts to get difficult is that all jurisdictions across the world, do not adhere to this.
The EU is the biggest example. A “non alcoholic” 0.5% drink can be called “alcohol free” and then sold in the UK with that label. If you look hard on the label you will find it then says 0.5% ABV
Below is a beer which is marketed as alcohol free but is really 0.5% ABV and non alcoholic.
The safest bet is to always look for the numerical value of alcohol by volume and largely ignore the labelling jargon.
Labelling laws in the USA
The FDA state “To ensure that consumers are not misled as to the alcohol content of the product, the statement of identity should be followed by the declaration, “contains less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume.”
FDA considers use of the terms “dealcoholized” and “alcohol-removed” in the statement of identity of a reduced alcohol wine product to be misleading if the alcohol content exceeds 0.5 percent by volume (…)
FDA does not consider the terms “non-alcoholic” and “alcohol-free” to be synonymous. The term “alcohol-free” may be used only when the product contains no detectable alcohol.”
The term “alcohol-free” may be used only when the product contains no detectable alcoholUSFDA
So both USA and UK both state the only terms acceptable for a spirit containing no alcohol and at 0.0% ABV is alcohol free. All other terms may have up to 0.5% ABV and therefore not be Halal. EU law however may allow alcohol free spirits to have up to 0.5% ABV.
How is alcohol free cider made?
There are 2 very broad categories of how to make non alcoholic or alcohol free cider. You can either
- Remove the alcohol once the beer is brewed – called dealcoholisation
- Limit the amount of alcohol produced in the brewing – called limited fermentation
In general, the alcohol free ciders are made via option 1, dealcoholisation.
This can be done via a variety of pretty expensive means or very cheaply…
- Vacuum Distillation – Boiling off the alcohol at low temps in a vacuum to keep more of the flavour aromatic compounds in the finished product.
- Reverse osmosis/cold filtration – forcing the cider against a very fine mesh to filter out the alcohol
- Boil off- literally boiling off the alcohol but boiling off a lot of flavour
- Dilution – Diluting down the alcohol to 0.0% but again, losing a lot of flavour.
Buyer beware as they say. From my research it seems 0.0% alcohol free cider can be considered Halal but if you are in any way in doubt then you should follow your normal processes and discuss it with your local religious leader. There is an argument that even up to 0.5% ABV can be Halal as it can’t get you drunk.