Many people get business ideas while sharing a drink with friends, but how many actually go through with them the morning after, or when the hangover goes away?
The makers of Manzana Hard Apple Cider not only followed through with their bright idea of bringing their version of the relatively unknown alcoholic drink to Manila, but they did so in record time. Twentysomethings Luis Sia, Vance Ching, and Martti Uy dreamed up the country’s first locally branded hard apple cider in February this year. By October, they were passing bottles of Manzana to friends and friends of friends at an informal product launch in a bar in Poblacion, Makati.
Cider, for the uninitiated, isn’t just vinegar or apple juice. It’s also the term used for the alcoholic beverage squeezed out of the fermented juice of apples.
“We poured a lot of our time focusing on getting the cider right,” Uy says. “With regards to the production of the cider, the process is very simple on paper; we produce hard apple cider by fermenting 100 percent apple juice. What surprised us were the tiny complexities that we needed to solve in order to produce the perfect cider that we had in mind.”
Uy says it took the team countless tries to get the perfect level of sweetness to arrive at the most ideal alcohol percentage, which turned out to be six percent ABV (alcohol by volume). They partnered with Joey Viray of Joe’s Brew, a local craft beer brewery.
“If there was anything that proved to be a great challenge, it was the fact that apples didn’t grow in the Philippines,” Uy says. “Luckily enough we were able to find the best imported apple juice we could find, and we went with it.”
Uy is quick to point out that Manzana has no additional artificial sweeteners or any other ingredients apart from 100 percent apple juice imported from Spain and yeast used for the fermentation process. “When you take a sip, you’ll immediately notice that it might not be as sweet as other mainstream cider brands, and it retains a very natural taste that can only come from fresh apple juice. Other brands we’ve tried had either too much artificial sweeteners or had too low of an alcohol percentage.”
Getting the recipe right for their own cider concoction is one thing, but getting drinkers to try it—especially in Manila where “cider” still means “vinegar” to a lot of people—is quite another. But Uy is optimistic Manzana will soon make its way on the lips and down the throats of Pinoy drinkers.
"Being gluten-free, paleo-friendly and low in sugar, we believe that this strong, yet easy-to-drink beverage could be a favorite without having to compromise.”
“It’s extremely easy to drink and it actually gets you tipsy—two things which we believe make a winning combo,” he says. “Taking a look specifically at the alcohol market as a whole, we feel that Manzana fills in a health gap. Being gluten-free, paleo-friendly and low in sugar, we believe that this strong, yet easy-to-drink beverage could be a favorite without having to compromise.”
Just like beer or wine, cider is versatile enough to have during meals. Uy recommends pairing it with food that has a rich fat flavor such as pork or creamy dishes and pasta. “It will also go well ginger and cinnamon flavors in pastries or dishes since these also pair well with apple,” he adds. “You can also try pairing it with dishes that benefits from sweetness such as fried chicken with honey or turkey. If you’re feeling adventurous, mild-spiced curry will also work well to pair with Manzana.”
The plan is to familiarize Filipinos enough with cider to corner a significant share of the local alcohol market within five years. It doesn’t sound too daunting, considering Manzana can be a viable alternative to beer and other hard drinks. Uy says they plan to offer numerous variations of their cider in the future, including a lighter version or one that’s infused with local flavors.
As for who they imagine Manzana would appeal to, Uy says it’s ultimately for those who want to drink for relaxation. “This could be your titas and titos who want a drink that’s healthier, or those who want to have a conversation over a nice cold drink by the beach. The common thread would be that these Manzana drinkers are already at the point in their life where they just want to slow things down and value a meaningful conversation over anything else.”
Manzana is currently available through orders on their Facebook page facebook.com/manzanacider. The drink will soon be available within the bars in Poblacion, including House of Joe’s and Kampai. SRP is at P210 per bottle.