Fire Cider is not just for health nuts and food purists. The Average Joe crowd bangs back the potent Kool-Aid, too.
Brian Huebner is a modern-day snake oil salesman. His Thoreauvian charm comes in handy when he’s pitching his elixir to hesitant buyers. Fire Cider is a concoction several years in the making for Huebner, his sister, Amy, and her husband, Dana St. Pierre, who is the original alchemist behind the trademarked tonic. The three started selling Fire Cider in 2010 at a holiday bazaar in the Berkshires.
“Dana started making it based loosely on a family recipe from his German grandmother. He was really battling seasonal allergies,” says Amy, the “kitchen witch” of Pittsfield, Massachusetts-based Shire City Herbals, which manufactures Fire Cider. “He’d throw in the lemon, the orange … things kept getting added in. We had several test batches sitting in our pantry. Then he really perfected the concept and got serious about writing things down.”
The final potion, though still somewhat of a secret, is a heady mix of cider vinegar, horseradish, oranges, honey, lemon, ginger, garlic, habaneros, and turmeric. The scent lies somewhere between zingy salad dressing and spiced cake. The flavor, well, it’s a burn. But a good burn. That’s what they tell reluctant passersby at farmers markets and potential retail outfits.
“We offer samples everywhere we go. Sometimes people think it’s moonshine or hard cider,” says Brian. “We tell them it’s a health tonic and they really need to just try it for themselves. The first sip’s a doozy.”
Fire Cider is not just for health nuts and food purists. The Average Joe crowd bangs back the potent Kool-Aid, too. Amy cites a collective fear of big pharma, and a return to hearty industriousness as part of the reason people are busting out of their comfort zone and flocking to the snake oil.
“It’s the gateway drug to using food as medicine,” she says. “People say they’ve never shopped at their co-op before until they realized that’s the only place they could get the tonic. That’s how it starts.”
You can find Fire Cider just about anywhere, from Terminal B at Logan Airport to soda bars and dark cafes. The tonic is sold in nearly 800 locations across the country. A few celebrities, including Willie Nelson and Elizabeth Warren, have slugged it back. And the producers are just getting started.
“We sent Bernie Sanders some,” Amy laughs. “We wrote ‘Feel the Bern’ on it. I hope he tried it.”
Fire Cider Earl Grey Hot Toddy
Brew one cup of Harney & Son’s Earl Grey tea
1 1/2 tsp of Fire Cider
1 1/2 tsp of Berkshire Mountain Distiller’s Berkshire Bourbon
(You can substitute any kind of bourbon, but why not drink local?)
1 1/2 tsp of lemon juice
1 tsp of honey or to taste
Makes one-cup serving