Before there was beer or wine or fancy batch cocktails served in mason jars — there was mead.
10,000 years ago someone discovered you could take honey and turn it into something magical. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used mead as a tonic, while the Vikings believed that it was a gift from Valhalla. The Celts held a mead toast at weddings and the Gorals thought it the drink of heroes.
Traditionally, mead is made of honey and water. The length of the ferment, the type of honey used and the proportions all dictate the flavour and sweetness of mead. Each brew is a unique reflection of an areas flora and the hard working bees that pollinate them.
Think about this — The flavour of honey comes from the relationship between the sweet honeydew from trees, the nectar from particular flowers, the bees in the hive, and the careful processing by the beekeeper. In Ontario, the majority of our honey is made from pollinating wildflowers, blueberries, lavender, basswood, goldenrod, clover and orchard fruit blossoms. That means that unlike warmer climates, we get notes of marmalade, rindy citrus, musk and leather in our honey. Now imagine those notes in a glass.
Mead is just as complex as wine — and each vintage has it’s own funk, like beer. It’s such a special drink, rich in tradition and layers. One we want each and every one of you to try.
The Dry Mead from Munro Honey & Meadery is a pleasant surprise for new comers to the mead menagerie. While honey may be sweet, this mead has a distinct dryness. Subtle honey flavours carry this refreshing mead to a clean, crisp finish.
Trafalgar Ales & Meads is another player in the Ontario mead game. They make a variety of meads, some even mixed with Ontario fruit. This is actually referred to as a Melomel. Come summer, their Lanark County Blueberry Mead makes a refreshing sipper, but at this time of year it’s the Muskoka Cranberry Mead that truly shines. As a mead, it’s reasonably mild and restrained with notes of jammy cranberries to finish. A perfect turkey-side sipper come Thanksgiving.
If my belly had a bucketlist, Tallgrass Mead Rebel RosA� would definitely be on it. This cabernet franc mead is made in a rosA� style. It boasts a lovely garnet colour to boot. Tallgrass Mead is out of the Stratford area, and while you can’t buy it in any stores just yet — you can taste it in some of the area’s amazing restaurants. Totally worth a road trip if you ask me!
Now, if there was a Queen Bee of Ontario’s Mead Court (sidenote: can we please form an Ontario Mead Court?!), the Rosewood Estates Ambrosia Grand Reserve Mead would be it. Using estate produced honey it was cool-fermented, then aged in seasoned French oak barrels for 3 years and 5 months — that’s 1245 days. The latest batch is sold out, but their Mead Royale is a worthy substitute. This viscous and creamy honey wine finishes semi-sweet with mouth-watering freshness and length.
Sipping mead is definitely metal. It’s intense and luscious — sometimes overwhelming. When we’re feeling a little meaded out, we slip this sweet little number into a cocktail (or two).
Here’s one we’re currently crushing on:
- 1 oz Ontario Mead
- 3 oz Ontario Sparkling Wine -- we dig the floral notes in Westcott Vineyards Violette or Kew Vineyards Rosalie for this one
- 1/2 oz Meredith's Ginger Syrup
- Frozen sour cherry for garnish
- Place Meredith's Syrup into a flute.
- Layer in Ontario mead. Top with sparkling wine.
- Drop in frozen cherry and serve!