There is a homemade concoction that can better the Aldi-bought, occasionally rancid, and always insipid booze we consider a treat on a Friday night. We can do better and we can do so at an even cheaper cost compared to supermarket aficionados. I will provide you with some basic guidelines on how to (theoretically) make your own home-brewed mead. No longer will the harrowing 10pm nationwide shutdown of all things jolly be something to fear and agonize. Instead, you can be surrounded by honey wine by the gallons, bottled and brewed, all just for you — and legally it’s best kept that way.
“Even on the Hill of Tara in County Meath, there is a banquet hall known as Tech Mid Chuarda, or “house of the circling mead”, a sign this article has been long overdue for us Irish.”
Mead, also known as honey wine, is considered the oldest recorded alcoholic beverage – with residue found in pottery vessels in northern China dating to 7000BC. From there it has stolen the hearts and inebriated the minds of all societies clever enough to engage in this low-cost production of essential drinking. Its simplicity is striking, with only three main ingredients needed for its creation: honey, water and yeast. With it being this simple, it is no surprise it has popped up throughout history as Aristotle’s preferred drink, to Boudica’s brainchild and Medieval Ireland’s aperitif. Even on the Hill of Tara in County Meath, there is a banquet hall known as Tech Mid Chuarda, or “house of the circling mead”, a sign this article has been long overdue for us Irish.
The essentials are honey, water and yeast, but there are a couple of simple additions which help add some depth and flavour to your first batch of mead. The Carboys you find online are often a gallon in size, so I (theoretically) used measurements with the intention of
producing a gallon batch of mead. This is a simple recipe without any hydrometer
measurements for alcohol content, but the type of yeast you use can give you some
indication, as yeast will die at a certain alcohol content. Due to the brevity and simplicity of
this recipe, don’t hesitate to browse all things mead-related online.
Recipe: A Gallon of Mead
1.36 kg of honey
½ pack yeast (Champagne or mead
25 g raisins
Peel of half an orange
Black tea bag
Carboy and Airlock
Sanitizer (Star sand)
- Start with a large tub of hot water and add sanitizer, to clean all equipment
being used in brewing process
- Hydrate Yeast (roughly half a packet)
- Take place some water in a cup, add yeast, and mix together
- Warm the honey bottle to improve usability of texture
- Cut up 25g of raisins, and along with the tea bag and place in saucepan
- Add peel of half an orange and water to saucepan
- Place on stove, bring to boil, then leave off the heat for 15 minutes
- This acts as the nutrients for the yeast and brings acidity and tannins to the mead
- Steep the nutrient tea and let cool down to somewhere below 27C
- Pour out and measure honey, then place in Carboy
- Pour some water into the Carboy to just over halfway, and shake and agitate
- Add in the nutrient tea, then add water until a decent amount of headroom is left
- Add yeast mixture to the Carboy and mix it through, then add Airlock
- Take carboy and place it somewhere dark around 20C (primary fermentation)
- Leave for 3-6 weeks before racking, either into another carboy but if not possible, bottles will do.
- Bottle the mead. The longer you leave the tastier it will be (recommended 6 months)
Once you have (theoretically) completed this hugely gratifying process, you will (theoretically) finish with over 4.5 litres of golden traditional mead to show for it. However, I do understand that for some of you, fermenting your own alcohol may feel an unintentional acknowledgement of one’s excessive fondness for it, and therefore purchasing a bottle may seem the safer option. Whichever way you do end up choosing, I couldn’t recommend it enough. At least for many it will serve as a new experience, and for others a start of a rather special relationship.
Mead can be drunk on its own, or as part of delicious cocktails. When making a cocktail, the ingredients can be categorised into three components. Firstly, you have the base, generally a single spirit or wine on which the cocktail is based. Then comes the modifier — examples include vermouth or fruit juices — an ingredient added to bring out a particular flavour and smoothness as it aims to ease the sharpness of the base ingredient.
Finally, there are special ingredients, possibly bitters or syrups, used to give a more unique flavouring or colouring to the cocktail. Mead’s versatility allows it to be used as an ingredient for any one of these categories, but in this cocktail it takes centre stage, and hence it will be our base. The recipe also aims to avoid slightly more niche liquors or syrups in an attempt to make this home-friendly in its list of ingredients. It’s a slight take on a French 75, with a lavender twist; however changing the bitters or gin flavouring gives you freedom to try any flavour you fancy.
½ ounce Gin (if possible lavender
1 ounce Mead
¼ ounce Lemon Juice
3 dashes Lavender bitters (optional)
Garnish: Lavender sprig
- Add all ingredients apart from the wine to the shaker
- Add ice and shake well for 5 seconds
- Strain into a flute glass without ice and top up with the sparkling wine
- Garnish with Lavender sprig
“With this (theoretical) drink in hand, a cosy tunic fitted, accompanied by equally antiquated stockings and a lute rendition of Greensleeves reverberating around the chamber, you (theoretically) have yourself a great cocktail and a timeless bottle of one of Ireland’s nostalgic best.”
With this (theoretical) drink in hand, a cosy tunic fitted, accompanied by equally antiquated stockings and a lute rendition of Greensleeves reverberating around the chamber, you (theoretically) have yourself a great cocktail and a timeless bottle of one of Ireland’s nostalgic best.