Living Up to its Fiery Name: A Legal Suspense Story

Kristina’s Bookshelf

Fire Cider! 101 Zesty Recipes for Health-Boosting Remedies Made with Apple Cider Vinegar
by Rosemary Gladstar and friends
(Storey Publishing, 2019) 

Mixtures combining vinegar with sweet and spicy additions have long been used to aid digestion, boost immunity, and treat a variety of ailments, including leg cramps.

In the late 1970s, Rosemary Gladstar, known as a “godmother of modern herbalism,” began the California School of Herbal Studies in the Sonoma County town of Forestville. In the class Herbs for Winter Health, Gladstar and her students came up with their own version of the vinegar tonic they called “Fire Cider.” Their tonic was a piquant mixture of apple cider vinegar, onion, ginger, horseradish, garlic, and other herbs.

Since then, Gladstar’s Fire Cider recipe has been in her lesson manual and in several copyrighted books, and the name “fire cider” has become just as popular as her recipe, used by herbalists to describe their unique formulations. Gladstar never claimed to own the name fire cider or trademark it. Doing so would run counter to the strong culture of sharing among herbalists. And, insofar as fire cider is a general name for a concoction that can take many forms, it would be like trying to trademark “chicken soup.”

But in 2012, a small company producing their own version of the herbal tonic did trademark the term “fire cider.” Three women selling the tonic under the long-recognized name protested on behalf of the herbalist community and filed petitions to cancel the trademark. The company, in turn, sued the women for trademark infringement.

In support of the protests, Gladstar and other herbalists mounted the “Free Fire Cider” movement. Producing Fire Cider: 101 Zesty Recipes for Health-Boosting Remedies Made with Apple Cider Vinegar was part of this effort. In addition to Gladstar’s original combination, the book includes simple instructions for mixing up elixirs like Black Currant Fire Cider, Hibiscus Pomegranate Orange Quickie, and even a cannabis fire cider. A number of the recipes use fire cider as an ingredient (like a Red Lentil Curry that relies on the cider for heat), Fire Cider Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Maple-Mustard Fire Cider Salad Dressing, and Fire Cider Chutney.

In addition to 101 recipes from 70 herbal practitioners, the paperback book offers detail regarding the beloved tonic, charming drawings, hand-drawn titles, bits of history regarding the popular brew, tributes, and entertaining anecdotes. Each recipe is accompanied by an introductory note with background about the recipe from the herbalist responsible for its creation.

And finally, if you’re curious about the lawsuit, in early October 2019, a federal court judge ruled in favor of the herbalists that the term fire cider is, indeed, generic.

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.