The alcoholic beverage laws and bottle redemption laws do not expressly mention cider. Without a crystal ball and a law degree, it can be difficult to figure out how cider is treated in the laws – sometimes as a malt beverage and sometimes like a wine. Sometimes it is even treated as a champagne.
My conclusion is that no bottle deposit notice is required on cider labels in New York, as long as the alcoholic content is less than 8.5% (the typical alcohol content of most ciders). Let’s look at how I arrived at this answer.
What beverages are covered by NY’s Bottle Bill?
- Carbonated Soft Drinks Including Sparkling Water, Carbonated Energy Drinks, Carbonated Juice (anything less than 100% juice, containing added sugar or water)
- Soda Water
- Beer and Other Malt Beverages
- Mineral Water – Both carbonated and non-carbonated mineral water
- Wine Products
- Water which does not contain sugar, including flavored or nutritionally enhanced water
What beverages are not covered by NY’s Bottle Bill?
- Milk Products
- Wine and Liquors
- Sports Drinks
- Drink Boxes
- Waters Containing Sugar
Under the new New York law effective Jan 14, 2014, cider is defined:
7-b. (a) “Cider” means the partially or fully fermented juice of fresh, whole apples or other pome fruits, containing more than three and two-tenths per centum (3.2%) but not more than eight and one-half per centum (8.5%) alcohol by volume: (i) to which nothing has been added to increase the alcoholic content produced by natural fermentation; and (ii) with the usual cellar treatments and necessary additions to correct defects due to climate, saccharine levels and seasonal conditions. Nothing contained in this subdivision shall be deemed to preclude the use of such methods or materials as may be necessary to encourage a normal alcoholic fermentation and to make a product that is free of microbiological activity at the time of sale. Cider may be sweetened or flavored after fermentation with fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, sugar, maple syrup, honey, spices or other agricultural products, separately or in combination. Cider may contain retained or added carbon dioxide. (b) In the event that an alcoholic beverage meets the definition of both a cider, as defined in this subdivision, and a wine, as defined in subdivision thirty-six of this section, the brand or trade name label owner of such alcoholic beverage shall designate whether such alcoholic beverage shall be sold as a cider or a wine for all purposes under this chapter.
Thus, I reason that cider is not a malt beverage, or a wine product, therefore, a bottle deposit is not required. Cider, by default, would fall within the definition of a juice or a wine, not requiring a bottle deposit. It is my hope that you can see how I analyze the regulations to address these unusual situations. As cideries become a stronger force in the marketplace, federal and state laws will begin to more clearly address how these alcoholic beverage manufacturers should be treated. Pending federal and state legislation contain provisions aimed at the cidery industry. If you are a cidery owner, or work with the industry on a regular basis (attorneys, accountants, label designers, marketing professionals, distributors and others), it is important to keep up to date with the changing laws and regulations affecting cideries.
New York law can be complex. An experienced alcohol beverage attorney can help you on a wide variety of issues such as beverage labeling. Our firm has experience in trademark, copyright, federal TTB laws and regulations and New York State liquor laws. This background gives us a unique perspective on the issues encountered by our cidery, brewery, distillery and winery clients. Feel free to contact us if we can be of service and put our specialized knowledge to work for you.
 New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Law and Bottle Law contain definitions of “Beverage” means carbonated soft drinks, water, beer, other malt beverages and a wine product as defined in subdivision thirty-six-a of section three of the alcoholic beverage control law. “Malt beverages” means any beverage obtained by the alcoholic fermentation or infusion or decoction of barley, malt, hops, or other wholesome grain or cereal and water including, but not limited to ale, stout or malt liquor. “Water” means any beverage identified through the use of letters, words or symbols on its product label as a type of water, including any flavored water or nutritionally enhanced water, provided, however, that “water” does not include any beverage identified as a type of water to which a sugar has been added.
“Wine product” means a beverage containing wine to which is added concentrated or unconcentrated juice, flavoring material, water, citric acid, sugar and carbon dioxide and containing not more than six per centum alcohol by volume, to which nothing other than such wine has been added to increase the alcoholic content of such beverage.
“Wine” means the product of the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of fresh, sound, ripe grapes, or other fruits or plants with the usual cellar treatment and necessary additions to correct defects due to climatic, saccharine and seasonal conditions, including champagne, sparkling and fortified wine of an alcoholic content not to exceed twenty-four per centum by volume. Wine produced from fruits or plants other than grapes shall include appropriate prefixes descriptive of the fruit or the product from which such wine was predominantly produced, and no other product shall be called “wine” unless designated as artificial or imitation wine.