Mead Cocktails from the Hive Mind
Think of mead only as something ladled into goblets at Renaissance festivals by Elizabethan-attired wenches? Honey, squash those notions. Bartenders are making the ancient fermented honey beverage buzzworthy again, demonstrating that mead can perform triple duty in cocktails as a base, flavoring agent or sweetener. According to David Guas, chef/owner of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Virginia, mead is having a moment of rediscovery as “the next new old thing.”
The Bourbon Smash gets an upgrade in this sip from Guas, who’s also a spokesperson for the National Honey Board. The mead makes for a smooth cocktail while bourbon provides body.
- 3 blackberries
- 2 tablespoons honey syrup (directions below)
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 orange peel
- 1½ ounces mead
- 1 ounce Belle Meade Bourbon
- Splash of water
Combine blackberries, honey syrup, bitters and orange peel in a large rocks glass. Muddle together, mashing the blackberries. Add a single 2-inch by 2-inch ice cube, followed by the mead, Bourbon and water. Using a cocktail spoon, stir for 30 seconds.
Combine ¼ cup wildflower honey and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Heat until dissolved (no more than 1 minute).
Courtesy of Honey’s and Enlightenment Wines, Brooklyn, New York
“We have great opportunity to mix things that have never been mixed in cocktails before and pick from our garden unique garnishes and ingredients,” says Enlightenment Wines co-founder Arley Marks, who developed the recipe with Honey’s bartender Torrey Bell-Edwards. Floralia mead, produced in Brooklyn and used in this cocktail, is infused with lavender, marjoram and juniper. “The Floralia Gimlet [is] a crisp, refreshing garden-to-glass cocktail that expresses what we do.”
- 1½ ounces Material Vodka
- 1 ounce Floralia Mead
- ¼ ounce lemon juice
- ¼ ounce raw sugar simple syrup, to taste
- 5 drops yuzu juice
- Lemon mint marigold, for garnish
Add all ingredients except garnish into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with lemon mint marigold.
Courtesy of Mint Gastropub, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
“Mead [can be used] as either the star of the show or as the equalizer for complexity in multi-ingredient cocktails,” says Domenico Lombardo, founder/executive chef of Mint Gastropub. “The better the mead, the better the drink. Bergamot-scented Earl Grey mead from nearby Colony Meadery plays nicely with Bourbon and honey syrup, like a more potent version of afternoon tea.”
- 1½ ounces Bourbon
- 1 ounce Colony Meadery Earl Grey mead
- ¼ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ ounce honey syrup
- Twist of lemon, for garnish
Stir all ingredients except garnish over ice. Strain into a footed goblet with a single large cube of ice. Garnish with the lemon twist.
Courtesy of Kristen Starks, beverage director, Cosima at Mill No. 1, Baltimore
Starks sought a cocktail to pair with the Sicilian cuisine at this chic Italian spot housed adjacent to an historic mill. “I wanted the cocktail to really show off the bright citrus, herbs and spice characteristics of the region while paying homage to the classic gin and tonic,” she says.
The herbal savory tones of the mead are matched by a syrup steeped with peppercorns and offset by a lavender and citrus tinged gin.
- 1½ ounces Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin
- ¼ ounce peppercorn simple syrup (recipe below)
- ¼ ounce fresh lemon juice
- 2 ounces Charm City Meadworks’ Basil Lemongrass Mead
- 1 ounce Fever Tree Tonic Water
Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Top with tonic water, and stir.
To make a batch of syrup, bring 2 cups of hot water with 1 cup of black peppercorns to a boil. Remove from heat, stir and let sit until water has taken on a dark brown color but is still warm enough to dissolve sugar (about 3 minutes). Add 1½ cups of granulated sugar and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool, strain in to a mason jar for keeping.
Courtesy of Ted Wilson, owner, Fine & Rare, San Francisco
Ted Wilson, proprietor of this former food truck turned sustainable fish den, is a fan of the mead made at Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes Station, California. “It is delicate, crisp and super expressive of the base honey,” he says. “Most meads are cloying and not in balance so they are not as interesting as Heidrun’s products.” Meadowfoam honey is native to the Pacific Northwest, and its vanilla flavor is nicely tempered by cardamom and rosemary.
- 4 cups simple syrup
- ½ cup thinly sliced kumquats
- 6–7 cardamom pods
- 4 rosemary sprigs
- Heidrun Meadery Meadowfoam Mead
- Kumquat slices, for garnish
Place kumquats and cardamom pods in the simple syrup into a pot. Warm over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the rosemary sprigs, muddle, then strain out any solids. To serve, pour 1 teaspoon of infused syrup into a flute, top with mead and garnish with a kumquat slice.
- 1Blackberry Mead-Fashioned Cocktail
- 2Floralia Gimlet
- 3The Ben Franklin
- 5Mead Spritzer