From an Epicurean and symbolic perspective Rosh Hashanah is practically synonymous with honey. This year, in addition to dipping apples into honey, my family will be drinking it as well. Not in its viscous, sticky form, but as mead an alcoholic honey wine, which is a bit yeasty and light in flavor, like wheat beer or a dry white wine.
Like heirloom tomatoes or heritage chickens, mead is a beverage with a long history; it can be traced back literally tens of thousands of years. Historians believe that it may have been the first alcoholic beverage ever produced (accidentally, it is supposed) when honey was left in the open air and allowed to accumulate water in an environment that made fermentation possible.
The historic drink has recently captured the attention of do-it-yourself brewers, locavores and other food-lovers. Brothers Nathaniel and Thatcher Martin, founders of Manhattan Meadery, created their Brooklyn Buzz honey wine after experimenting with different “fermentables.” “We’d made beer and wine from all sorts of fruits, vegetables, spices, maple syrup, but the mead from honey was just incredible. Mead really is a lost art.”
Each bottle of mead contains almost a pound of honey, Nathanial explained in an email. “The quality of the honey is very important — aromatic and rich honey makes mead which is, not surprisingly, aromatic and tasty. Just like quality wine is made from quality grapes, great mead comes from great honey.” Their latest batch was made with raspberry honey.
Though it may not be traditional to drink mead for Rosh Hashanah, it has been used as a kosher for Passover wine historically, according to Jeffrey Nathan in “Adventures in Jewish Cooking.”
Rather than serve mead with my main course this Rosh Hashanah, I’m planning to combine Brooklyn Buzz with hard cider (recipe below) to create an apple and honey cocktail that mirrors the apple and honey dipping ceremony. I will also use it to deglaze the au-jus from my roasted chicken to make a thick, rich wine reduction that will serve as the gravy.
The ingredients for mead are relatively simple and there are several sources online selling mead-making kits, but your best bet if you’d like to include mead in your Rosh Hashanah meal this year is to buy it. (It takes about three weeks to ferment and then must be stored in bottles for about two weeks.)
Rosh Hashanah Mead and Cider Cocktail
1 part mead to 1 part cider
a drop of honey
a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
1) Pour mead and cider over ice
2) Stir in honey, nutmeg and cinnamon
Where to buy mead: