Raise A Glass To 150 Years Of Martinelli’s Ciders & Juices

Sponsored By: Visit Santa Cruz

Martinellis Company Store Photo Credit Garrick Ramirez 1 01

(Photo by Garrick Ramirez)

Beloved sparkling cider and apple juice producer S. Martinelli & Company is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2018, and we’re bubbling over with excitement! Founded in Watsonville in 1868 — the same year Ulysses S. Grant was elected president — the effervescent company is still family owned, locally based, and making juice the way it always has: fresh and 100 percent natural. We’ve got the inside scoop below, and trust us, it gets juicy!

Martinellis Company Store Photo Credit Garrick Ramirez 2 01

(Photo by Garrick Ramirez)

It’s likely you were introduced to Martinelli’s via the iconic, coveted, apple-shaped glass bottle you begged your mom to buy on trips to the market. Then at Thanksgiving, you felt so cool filling your child’s cup with sparkling cider from a Champagne-style bottle … pinky up! You weren’t alone. It’s believed that Dean Martin would swig Martinelli’s — not martinis — onstage, and Martinelli’s cider doubled as Champagne in Hollywood movies during Prohibition.

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(Photo courtesy of S. Martinelli's & Co.)

But before the Rat Pack and the 18th amendment, there were the Swiss-born brothers, Stephano and Luigi Martinelli, who immigrated to the U.S. during the Gold Rush years and started farming apples in present-day Watsonville, just south of Santa Cruz, Calif. They introduced a fermented, or “hard,” cider in 1868, and by 1885, they were churning out 15,000 gallons a year (fast forward to 2017, Martinelli’s produced that much in less than two hours). The brothers began racking up gold medals for their cider at state fairs, which explains the medals you see on the labels today. In anticipation of Prohibition, Martinelli’s bottled its first unfermented — alcohol-free — apple juice in 1917. In 1933, the brand introduced its famous apple-shaped glass bottle with the slogan “Drink Your Apple a Day,” and the rest is history.

Martinellis Company Store Photo Credit Garrick Ramirez 3 01

(Photo by Garrick Ramirez)

Turns out, Martinelli’s was way ahead of its time, doing the local-artisan, farm-to-bottle thing. To this day, Martinelli’s produces fresh juices without any preservatives or sweeteners. Go ahead, pick up a bottle and count the ingredients: It’s just juice. No mystery ingredients or unpronounceable words. It’s why mom let you drink your apple a day.

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(Photo courtesy of S. Martinelli's & Co.)

During the early 20th century, that juice was hauled around in a classy 1932 Ford Model B truck with a giant cider bottle attached. In celebration of its 150th anniversary, Martinelli’s completely restored the truck for public appearances at local events throughout Northern California.

“This truck dates back to my grandfather’s era and was originally used for hauling apples and delivering juice to customers,” says John Martinelli, CEO and fourth-generation family member. “Using old photos as our guide, we restored the truck to look like it did 86 years ago.”

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(Photo by Garrick Ramirez)

Martinelli’s also slapped a special edition label on its sparkling cider, which you can nab at the memorabilia-filled Martinelli Company Store in Watsonville. Grab a stool at the wooden bar, where you’ll be treated to complimentary samples and introduced to the company’s many other tantalizing flavors, including sparkling juice blends of mango, marionberry, and pomegranate.

Martinellis Company Store Photo Credit Garrick Ramirez 4 01

(Photo by Garrick Ramirez)

Fun fact: It takes two apples to make one 10-ounce bottle of apple juice, but Martinelli’s juice actually is a blend of freshly pressed, locally grown apples, including Newtown Pippin, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Mutsu, and Honeycrisp. After being pasteurized, the juice is allowed to cool in the bottle to retain its naturally fresh flavor.

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(Photo courtesy of S. Martinelli's & Co.)

And because we know you’re dying to ask, what about the hard stuff? To commemorate its 150th year, Martinelli’s launched a brand-new hard cider that, like its prized juice, is made from fresh apples. For now, you can find it exclusively at Northern California Costco stores. So who’s ready to start drinking more apples?

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