Mead, the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, is making a comeback, English Heritage announced today (29 November), with the charity revealing it sells a bottle of the ancient tipple every 10 minutes. The drink is hot on the heels of its younger and hipper cousin, gin, as sales growth increased by an average of 10% year on year for the past three years. English Heritage is the UK’s largest retailer of mead and for those yet to experience the drink, the charity will be offering a free sample to enjoy at its sites this winter.

Dating back thousands of years, mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits or spices, and was once thought to be the drink of the gods, falling from the Heavens as dew and then gathered by bees. It was also believed to improve health, prolong life, and was presented to newlyweds to enjoy during what we now call their “honeymoon”.

Once the Vikings’ drink of choice, mead’s steady rise in popularity has also gained it a new following – who are putting a modern twist on the extremely old classic. Forget your flagons, modern mead drinkers prefer the 9,000-year-old beverage served in cocktail glass, over ice and with an orange zest garnish. To celebrate the revival of the golden brew, English Heritage has collaborated with The Vanguard, the UK’s first Cocktail Bar & Meadery in Birmingham, to create three new mead cocktails, Honeyed Gin Old Fashioned, Monks’ Fizz and Ye Olde Hot Tod. 

The Vanguard at 1000 Trades

With his Meadery opening earlier this year, Samuel Boulton, Managing Director at The Vanguard, has seen mead taking off with a younger generation: “As one of the world’s oldest alcoholic drinks, mead has sometimes had quite an old world reputation, but we’ve seen that dramatically change over the last five years. With the success of Game of Thrones, as well as the rise in popularity of experimental cocktails, you could definitely call mead the new up and coming drink and our customers really enjoy that historical throwback with the modern twist.”

Cameron Moffett, English Heritage Collections Curator, said: “There’s evidence of mead being consumed thousands of years ago and it was the power drink of ancient Europe before winemaking had developed. New research into English Heritage’s collections from Wroxeter and Hadrian’s Wall shows that mead was being made in the Roman period in Britain. Once wine started being imported honey was also used to makemulsum, a popular sweetened wine drink. We’ve also found evidence of mead being produced and stored at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, in the 5th and 6th centuries AD for use in great feasting events. It’s wonderful that this very old drink is now being discovered by a whole new generation.”

As the UK’s largest retailer of mead, English Heritage will be offering free tasting samples of mead at its Enchanted event at Witley Court in the West Midlands this winter (other Enchanted events will be held at Belsay Hall in Northumberland, Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster,  Audley End in Saffron Waldon and Eltham Palace in London). Visitors will be able to enjoy a stunning light display with the ultimate, ancient winter warmer.

Or create your very own cocktail at home with English Heritage and The Vanguard’s Mead Cocktails:

Mead Cocktails

Honeyed Gin Old Fashioned

  • 50ml Cotswold Distillery 1616 Aged Gin
  • 50ml Heritage Mead
  • 1/2 Tsp caster sugar (or 10ml Sugar Syrup)

Add all ingredients to a short glass with ice and stir until sugar is dissolved, adding more sugar to taste if needed. Garnish with some orange zest.

Monks’ Fizz

  • 40ml Heritage Mead
  • 40ml Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 75ml English Sparkling Wine

Add ingredients to a champagne coupe glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Ye Olde Hot Tod

  • 50ml Heritage Mead
  • 75ml Hot Water
  • 10ml Whisky
  • 1 tsp Runny Honey
  • 3 tsp Lemon Juice

Add all ingredients to a warm glass mug mixed until honey is dissolved and garnish with Star Anise & Cinnamon.

Mead Serving Suggestions

Prefer your mead pure and simple? Swap your usual dessert wine for a glass of mead to accompany Christmas pudding and mince pies.

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