Honey, Don't

Why mead, ancient drink of love, may not be making a comeback this year

Who knew there was an actually meadery out in Long Island? Popular with Society for Creative Anachronism devotees, the ancient honey-wine beverage smacks of Renaissance fair weirdness and people who live in the 21st century wilds of suburban Illinois yet somehow yearn to build their own yurt.

And yet, mead's popularity for thousands of years has to count for something. Didn't they dig it in Beowolf?

A website called "Got Mead?" features instructions on how to brew your own and announcement of the International Mead Festival, "the Superbowl of Mead," along with a scary advice-giving dude who calls himself the Wine Wizard. "I'm bottling some mead," one mead obsessive writes in, "and wanted to add that extra special touch to the finished product. I've seen some bottles with a wax coating on the top, the kind that drips down the side and looks like something out of a swashbuckling movie."

So we decide to hunt down the honey wine. Our first stop is East Village Wine, where we're disappointed to find Long Island Meadery Strawberry Mead comes not in the blood-tainted skull head surely favored by spunky tavern wenches and hirsute men with chest-hair forests—but in a bottle decorated with a wimpy flower motif. Huh? This is some wussie, harp-stroking, troubadour-type brand. Nevertheless we grab a bottle to try later.

"Forget about mead, it's all about glug," claims savvy friend Dan, who we promptly ignore and trudge over to Mugs Ale House in Williamsburg. The waitress scours the bar for one lone bottle of award-winning Lurgashall Special Reserve—vintage 2000 AD. We tentatively pour it into our wine glass, and take a sip—

It is repulsive. Insufferably sweet. Like chugging raw honey.

A willing friend tries it. "Ugh. This is like that nasty bottle of liquor your parents have sitting around for 25 years." A trip to Spuyten Duyvil on Metropolitan Avenue yields similar results: Lurgashall's Tower of London mead, fortified with Scotch Whiskey, a more potent, alcoholic take on the Special Reserve.

The only possible explanation for people downing this drek for thousands of years is what they say about every vile food or drink in existence. It is a purported aphrodisiac. The very term mead it turns out is in fact tied to the origin of the word honeymoon:

According to a 2003 BBC news article, "In Biblical times, the secret to a happy marriage was nothing more than a honey-based alcoholic drink. Newlyweds were encouraged to drink mead every night for one lunar month after they tied the knot. The fruits of their so-named honeymoon would then appear nine months later, in the form of a bouncing baby."

Aphrodisiac, sure. They probably couldn't bear the taste, and needed another way to spend the night.

 
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