Apfelwein vs Cider Apple Wine in Frankfurt am Main Germany. You’ll never guess what they add to it!

Apfelwein (Apple Wine) in Frankfurt am Main Germany Europe

Germany, Europe, is known for its excellent beer crafting and brewing heritage, and for having some of the very best beer brands in the world. When planning a trip to Germany, one usually thinks of the Oktoberfest in Munich, huge Steins (beer mugs) overflowing with foam, and cheerful beer-maids serving rowdy patrons. Frankfurt am Main is surprising in that its famous drink is Apfelwein, or “apple wine!”

Frankfurt on Main Germany
The Markets in Frankfurt

Summer in Frankfurt is the best time to enjoy a glass of apfelwein in the sun, on the grassy embankments alongside the Main River. Apfelwein (pronounced “up-fill-vine”) is a beloved part of Frankfurt’s history and cultural identity, and the production of apple wine is seen as a prestigious traditional craft.

At first glance, Frankfurt may seem like a very modern city with its skyscrapers, the European Central Bank (home of the Euro!), and cosmopolitan inhabitants, but it has an old, traditional heart waiting to be discovered by travellers, who are likely to delay their European Vacations to spend more time here. One of the best ways to get to know Frankfurt is by experiencing the city’s culture first-hand – starting by trying the favourite local beverage, apfelwein!

A jug and glass of Apfelwein in Frankfurt Germany
Apfelwein in Frankfurt, Germany

How to make Apfelwein – Apple Wine

What the Germans, Swiss, and Austrians call “apple wine” is actually a kind of cider, made from pressed apples and yeast. In Frankfurt, the speciality is apple wine made with the juice from a kind of fruit similar to a wild apple, harvested from indigenous Speierling trees. Speierling apple wine is a lot more astringent than the regular version, and its alcohol percentage is higher.

Apple wine is produced mostly in the state of Hessen, from locally grown apples. Apples were first used to make wine after a grape parasite ravaged the vineyards surrounding Frankfurt – hence the need to make “apple wine” as a substitute! It quickly became a popular drink in Frankfurt, served cold with sparkling water in the summer, and hot with spices in the winter.  The city is often referred to as “Main-hattan” due to the cityscape of skyscrapers along the Main River, and if New York is the “Big Apple”, then Frankfurt is certainly the “Little Apple” – quite fitting for an apple-enamoured city!

A glass of apfelwein on the grass
A glass of Apfelwein Apple Wine German Hard Cider

How to Drink Apfelwein like a Local

The drink is somewhat of an acquired taste, and most first-time drinkers find it too bitter and astringent to enjoy! Luckily it comes in several different varieties, which you can order at any restaurant that serves apfelwein:

Pur – Pure, regular without any additions

Sauer gespritzt – Sour, mixed with sparkling mineral water (one part water to two parts apfelwein)

Suß gespritzt – Sweet, usually pure, mixed with lemonade or sparkling mineral water

One can order it by the glass, or in a traditional Bembel – a large, salt-glazed, stoneware jug used specifically for the drink. The drinking glasses used for this have a distinctive diamond/lozenge cut that makes them easier to grip, which was useful in former times when cutlery wasn’t commonplace. The apfelwein bembels are painted in characteristic white and blue patterns, and they come in several sizes ranging up to those that can hold several litres! Groups of friends usually share a bembel and several bottles of sparkling mineral water, refilling as the evening wears on.

Apfelwein Restaurants in Sachsenhausen

Alt Sachsenhausen is the oldest neighbourhood in Frankfurt, and home to the city’s famous apfelwein pubs and restaurants. Some great Sachsenhausen restaurants to visit include The Struwwelpeter, Apfelwein-Wagner, Zum gemalten Haus, and Dauth Schneider. You can also enjoy some typical Frankfurt cuisine, such as Handkäse mit Musik (a special kind of hand-made cheese), Frankfurter sausages, and Grüne Soße, a herb sauce served with boiled eggs and potatoes.

The weekly market at Frankfurt Konstablerwache also has several apfelwein stalls, where producers from the region gather to sell their uniquely crafted drinks, and where locals gather to share bembels of apfelwein and catch up on gossip. The atmosphere is festive and friendly, and it’s a great place to see daily life in Frankfurt am Main.

The Ebbelwei Express

A fun and novel way to see Frankfurt is via a ride on the Ebbelwei Express, a tram tour that includes a glass of apfelwein, sparkling mineral water, and snacks. The Ebbelwei Express (Apple Wine Express)  travels around the whole city, passing by several sightseeing hotspots such as the Zoo, Römer Platz, Sachsenhausen, and Hauptbahnhof.

You can embark at one of several stops along the route, pay for your ticket on board, and then enjoy some apfelwein as you pass by Frankfurt’s skyscrapers, half-timbered buildings, the many bridges spanning the Main River, and many other interesting sights.

Tickets are €8.00 per adult, and €3.50 for children and teenagers up to the age of 14. The ticket price covers a round-trip that takes approximately an hour (without stops – you cannot hop on and off), and a complementary glass of apfelwein. Apple juice and water is available for minors and non-drinkers.

A cute little Apfelwein symbol
Apfelwein Apple Wine symbol

Apple Wine Festivals in Frankfurt Germany Europe

Frankfurt am Main celebrates its love of apfelwein with annual festivals and events. The biggest is Frankfurt’s Apple Wine Festival, which is usually held in August. This apple-lover’s event is held at Roßmarkt, near Hauptwache and Frankfurt’s biggest and busiest shopping street, the Zeil.

If you plan to travel to Europe, definitely visit Frankfurt. Ask your travel agent to include it in your Europe tour or travel packages. You will be delighted by the friendly atmosphere, the abundance of apple wine varieties available for tasting, traditional apple wine barrels, apples galore, and a full program of entertainment. You can look forward to traditional music by Hessian cult bands, recitings of poetry and folklore, and the mingling of locals and tourists alike.

There is also plenty of local food for sale, and a wide range of authentic apfelwein paraphernalia available for purchase, such as bembels and apfelwein glasses!

No matter the length of your stay in Frankfurt – be it a few hours of free time during a Europe business trip, or a few days of your travels across Germany – there’s always time for a refreshing glass of apfelwein!


Editors Note

There are many ways to make apfelwien, and a simple search will find you a number of different recipes. Most call for bottles of apple juice from a supermarket. Obviously that’s not really Apfelwein. Real apfelwein is made from real pealed, cored and juiced apples from Germany in Europe. Most require you to make around 5 gallons or at least 30 to 40 bottles of wine if you plan to start, that means cutting hundreds of apples, and days of work! 42 apples makes one gallon or about 3.7 litres. So you’ll need about 210 apples for 5 gallons or about 18 litres. I think I’d rather fly to Frankfurt!

The Secret Ingredient as to Why Apfelwein is Different to Cider

The big difference between apple wine and apfelwein from Frankfurt, otherwise known as Apfelmost, Äppler, Ebbelwoi, Saurer Most, Schoppen, Schoppe, Stöffsche or  Viez,  is that  berries from the native Service Tree (Sorbus Domestica) is added to the process to make the wine more astringent. So, without the berries, it’s not really Frankfurt Apfelwein. The only way you’re really going to be able to taste the real Apfelwein is by flying there!

Apfelwein recipe

In any case, if you want to try making a basic Apple Wine from bottled juice, visit this post on homebrewtalk: Apple Wine Recipe or this one from gluttoncooking: Apple Wine German Hard Apple Cider recipe

  • Carmen is a Capetonian travel blogger and photographer who is currently seeking wanderlust and whimsy in Europe. Visit her blog at: An Incurable Case of Wanderlust https://anincurablecaseofwanderlust.com/