The Drink of the Viking Warlords Makes a Great Summer Cocktail

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Long before humans had figured out beer, we learned that you can make a damn tasty crunk-juice by stewing rainwater in a beehive. Mead was the drink of ancient Greek philosophers, Asian hunter-gatherers, and Celtic berserkers. It’s also the secret behind some of the best summer cocktails.


It’s Friday afternoon, you’ve made it through the long week, and it’s time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo’s weekly booze, etc. column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. Grab your torches, pitchforks, and chalices, we’re gonna get medieval.

Contrary to popular belief, mead isn’t just for Viking warlords and medieval reenactment societies. It also doesn’t have to be sweet. Meads are as complex and varied as wines, and in America, they’re making a big comeback. Today, mead enthusiasts around the country are cooking up all sorts of news infusions and cocktails, putting a modern twist on the libation of the ancients.

Growing up in the DC metro area, the first place I ever encountered mead was (naturally) at the Maryland Ren Fest. The honey-colored drink came in overpriced novelty bottles, and it was abominably sweet. Nevertheless, I have many a fond high school memory of sipping shitty mead on the sly while chomping a roasted turkey leg and watching nerds joust on a hot summer day.

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I rediscovered mead a few years back, while spending a week with family in central New Hampshire. One rainy afternoon, bored and painfully surfing the web on dial-up connection, my brother and I stumbled upon the Sap House Meadery, an internationally acclaimed destination located in a town we’d never heard of some 30 miles away. We immediately decided to go, and spent an unexpectedly drunk fun afternoon sampling everything from dry, blueberry hops honey wine to sugar maple dessert mead. I walked away with a crate full of the stuff, and spent the rest of the summer happily swilling glasses of Beowulf’s booze over ice.

I recently got in touch with the Sap House Meadery’s owner, Ash Fishbein, to get some professional advice on how I could be spicing up my mead drinking experience. He shared a couple of his favorite cocktails — naturally, featuring his signature meads. Of course, you can sub for any mead of your liking! I’ve also included a few other amazing cocktails, courtesy of mead experts around the country. Mead is listed at the top of each recipe.


The Perfect Storm

2 parts Sap House Meadery’s Sugar Maple Mead

1 Part Ginger Beer (Recommend: Maine Root Ginger Brew)

Pour ingredients over ice and enjoy!

Via Sap House Meadery, Ossipee, NH

Vanilla Ginger Mashup

3 oz. Sap House Meadery’s Vanilla Bean Mead

2 oz. vanilla-ginger simple syrup (follow recipe below):

1 cup sugar 8 ounces water 1/4 cup fresh ginger, chopped 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped


club soda


  1. Combine all ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil for one minute.
  2. Remove from the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Strain out vanilla bean pods and ginger and cool syrups.

Via Sap House Meadery, Ossipee, NH

Bluebonic Tonic

4 oz Sap House Meadery’s Hopped Blueberry Maple Mead

2 oz Tonic Water

1 oz Simple Syrup

Citrus Bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice, add citrus bitters if you like, and stir!

Via Sap House Meadery, Ossipee, NH


3 parts B.Nektar Meadery’s NecroMangoCon (A fruity mango and black pepper mead)

1 part freshly squeezed Orange Juice

garnish with an orange twist

Via B. Nektar Meadery, Ferndale, MI

The Real Detroit

4 parts B. Nektar Wildberry Pyment (A fruity mead made with strawberries and blueberries)


1 part Valentine vodka

1 part triple sec

1 part Faygo Rock ‘N Rye (Detroit’s signature vanilla cream cola)

squeeze of lime and orange

Add everything but the Rock N Rye to a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Shake like Zeus.


Pour Faygo into a martini or rocks glass, top with what’s in the shaker. Garnish with orange and lime

Via B. Nektar Meadery, Ferndale, MI

Redstone Spritzer

1.5 oz Redstone Black Raspberry or Boysenberry Nectar

1.5 oz Redstone Traditional Mountain Honey Wine

Splash of soda water or 7 up or Sprite

Serve over ice in a rocks glass

Via Redstone Meadery, Boulder, CO

The Lost Sunrise

Shaker of Redstone Black Raspberry or Boysenberry Nectar

1 oz tequila

½ oz Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Splash of orange juice

Serve over ice in rocks glass with lime

Via Redstone Meadery, Boulder, CO

Downeast Kir

2 oz. Moonlight Meadery Fling (A slightly tart mead infused with rhubarb and black currants)


6 oz. Chardonnay

Pour mead into wine glass, then gently add white wine. Vary the Fling / Chardonnay ratio to taste. This recipe works great with many Moonlight meads, and choose your favorite white wine variety.


Via Moonlight Meadery, Londonderry, NH

The Mojo Mojito

4 oz. Moonlight Meadery Mojo

2 oz White Rum

sprig of mint

Add ice to a 8oz collins glass, add Moonlight Meadery Mojo and Rum to glass, add sprig of Mint.


Via Moonlight Meadery, Londonderry, NH

Mead and Beer

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome flavor explosion that happens when mead and beer are mixed. You can jazz up any boring ol’ summer wheat by mixing it with mead in a 2:1 ratio (dry, fruity meads work best here in my experience). On the other hand, adding a sweet, dessert mead (vanilla-infused, if you can find it) to a coffeehouse porter cures the winter blues better than a cup of hot chocolate with brandy.


Shutup and Take My Money!

There are roughly 165 meaderies currently in operation in the United States, according to USA Today. So browse the interwebs to see if there’s one near you. Some of them, Sap House Meadery included, even allow you to order online, but you should really make it out for a tasting if you can. Happy drinking!


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Top image via Wikimedia




Mead is perhaps the easiest fermented beverage to make yourself. It doesn’t care if you let it get too hot (like beer does) and doesn’t mind light exposure (like wine does). Here’s a great, super simple recipe that is impossible to screw up and makes a delicious, sweet, fruity mead:

3.5lbs grocery store honey

1lb of your favorite fruit, sliced (I like orange or pear, but tropical and pitted stonefruit are amazing too)

handful of raisins

water up to 1 gallon

packet of fleishman’s bread yeast

Mix the water and honey by shaking, pop an airlock on your 1 gallon jug (if you don’t have one, go grab a bottle of carlo rossi and have trashy party) and let it ride. Once it’s clear enough to read a book through it’s ready to bottle. Yields 6-7 12oz bottles of very sweet 12% ABV honey wine.