A beginner’s guide to mead, the drink shaking its “ye olde” image

Mead? Isn’t that what the Vikings drank?

It was certainly popular in the Middle Ages and was the drink of choice for Danish warriors in the Old English epic poem Beowulf. But mead is much older than that, so much so that it is widely regarded as the very first alcoholic beverage, with evidence of honey fermentation in China dating back to 7000 BC. Ancient civilizations elsewhere in Asia, as well as in Europe and Africa, subsequently developed their own versions.

How it’s made ?

Suitable for a drink with such a long history, there are countless iterations, but in its simplest form, mead is made from honey and water, fermented with yeast. In terms of ranking, it is a drink apart, not being brewed like a beer, nor a type of wine or spirits. It’s also simple enough to be done at home, edited by YouTube tutorials, if you like. But beware: although easy to do, it is difficult to perfect.

So who does it?

Modern mead makers include those in Bermondsey Gosnells of London, which offers a range of canned sparkling meads – Houblonné, Citra Sea, Hibiscus and Sour – as well as bottled meads. Superstition Meadery, Arizona, ages some of its meads in bourbon and wine casks, creating a wide range of flavor profiles. Meanwhile, in New York City, actor and entrepreneur Dylan Sprouse – passionate about mead since he was a teenager – co-founded All-wise meadery. He makes traditional meads, as well as varieties flavored with rose petals and oolong tea.

How should I drink it?

Mead can be served neat, chilled or at room temperature, depending on the type. Sparkling varieties are a great alternative to cider. The growing popularity of mead means that it is also increasingly used as a cocktail ingredient. Take, for example, the bride’s nectar from The cocktail trading company., in Shoreditch, east London, made with jasmine mead, calvados, yellow chartreuse and lemon juice.


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