Cranes' Cider Siblings

A delicious cranberry cider created by twin brothers – now that’s a family business we can get behind!

Ben (left) and Dan, co-founders of Cranes.

Ben (left) and Dan, co-founders of Cranes.

For Dan and Ben Ritsema, the rugby-playing twins behind the Cranes Cranberry Cider in October 2016's Gin of the Month Box, beer just wasn’t cutting it. Long nights of drinking at university were getting these athletic brothers down, and they knew that there must be a way to enjoy themselves without sacrificing their health.

As Dan explains: “When my brother and I were at university, we were very health conscious. We didn’t want to stop drinking, but we thought there could be a healthier way.”

But what were the twins to do? The answer was lurking in the back of their minds the whole time: cranberries. These bright red berries have a whole raft of health benefits (you can find out more on page 14) and one added bonus: they taste amazing.

After graduation, Dan and Ben moved back to their hometown of Cambridge and started experimenting. Born entrepreneurs, they were determined to crack the code of “healthier” alcoholic drinks.

Dan says: “Everyone knows that cranberry juice is good for you. So we started fermenting cranberries to make a brew, and the ideas just flowed from there.”

The result of their experiments can be found in October's Gin of the Month box: a sparkling cranberry cider with no fake flavours or artificial colouring. The sweetness of the fruit juice and bright red cranberry colour are all Cranes needs to taste great and look stunning in the glass. And with just 99 calories a bottle – compared to the more than 300 found in other fruit ciders – there’s nothing not to like.

“More and more people are conscious of what they’re putting into their bodies. Cranes fits with that,” Dan says. “What you see on the label is what’s in our drink.”

Realising that the tartness of cranberries wasn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, Dan and Ben set about trying to find a way for those with sweeter palates to get all of the health benefits of cranberries (and the boozy fun of Cranes). It was also an opportunity to make Cranes more decidedly British, by bringing in some home-grown fruit flavours to balance the very American punch of cranberry.

On choosing his flavours, Daniel says: “It was mostly us tasting fruits and thinking, that’s quite a British fruit. Things like raspberries and strawberries – that’s what we were after.”

But there also needed to be a dash of the unexpected, which is where a pomegranate and a kiwi came in. “We wanted to add something to make it a bit different,” Dan says, “and lend a different flavour.”

In the end, Dan and Ben wound up with three delicious Cranes cider varieties: Original Cranberry, Raspberry and Pomegranate, and Strawberry Kiwi. And they aren’t stopping there. A new cranberry and blood orange liqueur promises to bring two of the best cold-weather flavours to lovely cocktails all year round.

In fact, Ben and Dan are about to take their cranberry concoctions on the road – they’ll be embarking on a Costco roadshow soon, with no sibling rivalry in sight to derail them. Because, while many would find working so closely with family a little claustrophobic, at Cranes HQ it’s all about teamwork.

“When we were younger we would fight a lot,” Dan laughs. “Obviously we’ve matured a lot and the fights are in the past. Now we’re civil.”

“The two of us work together very well,” Dan continues. “We’re always on the same wavelength. If we don’t agree there’s a good reason, and we come up with solutions together; it’s one force working together.”