While cider is rare in today's market compared with beer or wine, this was not always the case. Historically, hard ciders were the original table wines in the colonies that became the United States. Every farmstead started by planting apple trees in order to produce hard cider and vinegar. At that time, there were no waving fields of grain for beer or great fields of grape arbors for wine, since European cultivars did not do well in America before new varieties were developed. Just as with grapes and grain, most of the European apple varieties brought here early on tended not to thrive in the colder New England climate and so the colonists came to rely on trees planted from apple seeds, as opposed to grafting. Grafting, taking a piece of a desired variety and attaching it to another tree or rootstock, is the only way to propagate a particular variety. However, every individual seed planted grows into a new apple variety, often having no resemblance to its parents at all. This made for an incredible diversity in the fruit that came up, thus giving us our own North American varieties. And from these new wild apples came equally diverse and complex hard ciders. Hard cider was the beverage European settlers drank in the early stages of living in North America and thrived through the late 1800's.
However, the American culture of hard cider was for the most part lost. Mechanization made grain production cheap, and easy to transport and store; urbanization of people because of industrialization, and the temperance movement/Prohibition, (among other things), combined to virtually wipe out hard cider production in the U.S. So recently, when producers began reintroducing cider to the American market, they turned to ciders from other countries as a base of inspiration. Modern techniques are used to produce a specific consistent cider, often trying to mimic certain European styles. Many producers today work hard to produce cider with residual sweetness and/or carbonation, by using forced carbonation, sulfites, sterile filtration, pasteurizing, added sugars and flavors, preservatives, etc, often ending up with a drink more closely resembling a soft drink than what ciders historically were. Thus, most cider on the market today has little connection with the cider culture from 250 years ago.