National Mead Day 2016

National Mead Day is Saturday, August 6th. Please go to your nearest meadery because it’s going to be a party. Meet me at the One And Only Brothers Drake Meadery/Pleasure Dome in Columbus, Ohio. I’ll be doling out hospitality one glass at a time. We have PB&J, Cherry Chipotle, Brioso Coffee, Hopped Stonefruit, and many more. Millions of Honeybees are counting on you. 

Blacksmith Bramble

I’m making this drink in partnership with Orchid Cellars in Middletown, Maryland. Opened in 2010. They’re a first generation polish family creating new mead recipes inspired by Poland’s long and distinguished mead making history.

Blacksmith is a mixed berry mead that is barrel aged for eighteen months. This a full bodied mead with big honey notes. Very polish. If you’ve tried other polish style meads and liked them you will like Blacksmith.

It’s blackberry season and I’m becoming intrigued with old timey cocktails like brambles. The name bramble itself sounds fun and charming.

My recipe is an adaptation of the blackberry bramble from Food Republic. I was surprised by how all the other elements of the cocktail served to bring the mead to the center. It’s very refreshing and with great honey flavor.

For the drink:

  • 3 blackberries
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Blacksmith or other sweet berry mead
  • 3/4 oz. lemon
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup

Muddle the blackberries in a shaker. (Or, if you’re me, smash them in a coffee mug with a salad fork, either way.)

In another shaker, combine gin, mead, lemon and simple syrup. Shake briefly to combine.

Combine a small splash of the drink mixture with the blackberries and pour into a glass.

Fill the glass with crushed ice and pour the rest of the drink over the ice. Enjoy!

Pair with: blue cheese, arugula salad, Memphis barbecue

Hot Shot Margarita 

The first time I tasted a hot pepper mead, I was a judge for the Mazer Cup. Americas only (and by default) most prestigious, mead competition. Back then, judging happened in someone’s home – sitting around tables in the dining room and the kitchen. We were down to the oddities that didn’t fit into the other categories, the last of the day, and out comes this jalapeño mead. This mead was nothing but hot, wet, green jalapeño hotness. Imagine crunching down on the fattest, juiciest, raw jalapeño you’ve ever seen, just stuffing the whole thing in your mouth, that’s what this mead was like. 

Today’s mead makers are bringing more finesse to the table, mixing flavor with fire. Hot pepper meads are coming into their own. For this margarita, I’m using Hot Shot from Brothers Drake. This is a traditional mead infused with habeñero peppers. It’s potent enough to heat up a margarita without watering it down, and the citrusy, smoky chili flavor compliments the other elements of the drink.

I went with Lunazul Reposado for the tequila.  A very respectable, 100% agave tequila with a price point that makes it a great candidate for cocktails. This tequila is a delightful sipper on its own. Full bodied and very pleasant, it highlights the flavor of the hot pepper mead. 

Cointreau, triple sec, Grand Mariner, I looked at the bottles of orange liqueur on the shelf. I don’t like to over complicate my recipes, but I decided orange just wasn’t going to work with the Hot Shot. Instead, I chose a peach liqueur. The fuzzy, sweet, soft peach flavor sits comfortably with the barrel aged tequila and habañero warmth.  

For the drink:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Reposado Tequila
  • 1/2 oz. Hot Shot 
  • 1/2 oz. Peach liqueur 
  • 3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

Combine ingredients with ice and shake. Serve over ice in a salt rimmed glass.

Pair with: Monterey Jack, grilled fish tacos, watermelon 

You can find Hot Shot in Ohio.

Outside of Ohio Look here for hot pepper mead.

The Big Apple

I’m a big fan of Manhattans – I make them at home all the time. If I’m going to attempt a variation on such a revered classic, dear readers, I promise I’m going to make it delicious.

I’m also a fan of cyser, a style of mead made by mixing honey and apple cider. Apples and honey naturally taste great with spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Apple pie cyser is like a trip to my babysitter Wilma’s house where I spent afternoons as a kid. She always seemed to be putting the finishing touches on some irresistible dessert when I got there.

There was an especially good bourbon barrel aged apple pie style mead on my shelf at home. I had been wracking my brains trying to think of ways to incorporate it into a cocktail, when one morning I woke up with the inspiration to replace the Italian vermouth in my Manhattan with this exceptional mead. A bolt from the blue! I was so excited! I wanted to rush downstairs and mix the drink up right then and there, but it was 7am on a Monday and drinking cocktails is not my full time job.

Ignoring the urge to dawn drink, I went about my day like a responsible adult, with visions of charred oak barrels and apple pie fairies dancing in my head the whole time. When I finally got home, it was time for the real work to begin.

I began building my Manhattan in the usual way: I added bourbon and ice to a cocktail shaker, then the bourbon barrel aged apple pie cyser, a dash of Angostura bitters, and stir. I always stir drinks like Manhattans and martinis with a long spoon instead of shaking. Stirring incorporates less air than shaking, and a crystal clear cocktail is the reward.

I strained the drink into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Things were going well. I planned to use a cherry, but instead I squeezed a drop of fresh lemon juice onto a sliced red apple, and the Big Apple was born.

When I tasted it, the first thing I noted was that it didn’t taste like apple. The spiced cyser added richness and fire to the bourbon, with just enough caramel sweetness to make it very easy to drink. I mentioned that the apple slices I used had lemon juice added to them. This does a great job of keeping apples fresh, but the hint of lemon also added a layer of flavor and aroma that worked as a nice top note to balance out the drink. Apple pie mead does not have the botanical complexity of good vermouth, and the splash of lemon helps to brighten this drink. A bite of bourbon-infused apple slice at the end was very refreshing.

For the garnish:

  • Squeeze lemon juice onto apple slices and set aside.

For the drink:

  • 2 oz. bourbon or rye
  • 1 oz. Apple pie style cyser
  • Dash of bitters

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir. Serve up or on the rocks. Garnish with an apple slice.

Pair with sharp cheddar, bacon wrapped dates, roasted cashews, and more apple slices.

Find Apple Pie cyser online