Episode 061 - The Mead Episode

Charm City Meadworks Tasting Room.png

What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

Welcome back to another glorious episode of the Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

We have a terrific interview episode this week, featuring two awesome people from Charm City Meadworks - a Baltimore-based company that produces the Mid-Atlantic’s favorite meads. Yeah, that’s right, the stuff that Vikings like to drink.

In this interview with James Boicourt and Hillary Harris of Charm City Meadworks, some of the topics we discuss include:

  • The most common varieties of mead you’ll come across, from the renaissance faire to your local supermarket
  • How Charm City Meadworks grew from a kitchen countertop operation to one of America’s biggest and fastest growing mead producers.
  • A few ways you might begin incorporating mead into your home bartending pursuits.
  • Tips and resources for home mead-making and beekeeping.
  • A few notes on how we can help preserve our struggling pollinators
  • And much, much more

Charm City Meadworks Products

Charm City Meadworks produces both still and draft (or carbonated) meads. The still varieties come in 16.9 oz (or 500ml) glass bottles, and the draft varieties come in your standard 12 oz cans.

The still mead flavors, which are about 12% ABV, include: Original dry, sweet blossom, strawberry ginger, and apple cinnamon, in addition to their small batch and seasonal releases.

And the draft flavors, weighing in at 6.9% ABV, get a bit more exotic: wildflower, basil lemongrass, elderberry, Mango compeno, pumpkin, and raspberry coconut, just to name a few.

Still Mead Charm City.jpg
Draft Mead Charm City.jpg

Anyone who lives outside of the Mid-Atlantic and wants to get their hands on some Charm City Meadworks products can head on over to their VinoShipper page and place an order.

Featured Cocktail: The Mead-Fashioned

Mead is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey, and so it makes sense that you might want to pair it with spirits where “honey” could be one of the tasting notes - bourbon being one noteworthy example.

To make a Mead-Fashioned, you’ll need:

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • ¾ oz of off-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet mead
  • And several Dashes of Aromatic Bitters (we always like to use our Embitterment Aromatic Bitters)

Combine all these ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir until well chilled, strain into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube, and then garnish with a lovely orange twist.

The Mead-Fashioned is a perfect example of using one of the qualities of mead - in this case, sweetness - to sub in for that same quality in a classic cocktail. In this drink, the mead is replacing the sugar cube or the simple syrup, and depending on the sweetness of the mead you’re using, as well as your own personal preferences, you might decide to nudge that ¾ of an oz of mead up or down to fit your palate.

The cool thing, though, is that along with that requisite sweetness, you’re also getting the other flavors that come with the mead, which is going to yield an Old Fashioned riff that is completely distinct from anything else out there.

Bonus Cocktail

This incredibly photogenic little drink is courtesy of Hillary Harris, whom we speak with in this episode. This cocktail is an Elderberry Mead Black Currant Cosmopolitan, which is a mead-driven take on the cocktail that dominated the 90s.

 Photo Credit: Marco Gonzalez

Photo Credit: Marco Gonzalez

To make one, you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2oz Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec
  • 1 /2 oz Elderberry Mead
  • 2 oz Black Currant juice
  • 1/4 oz lime juice

And to make this drink, you’ll combine all these ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake it like a polaroid picture, and then garnish with your favorite citrus twist.

This is a balanced, fruity cocktail where the complexity of the mead and the blackcurrant juice plays a really pleasant counterpoint to the citrus and triple sec. The only problem might be getting your hands on blackcurrant juice, but if you hit up Hillary on Twitter @charmcityhills (spelled like it sounds), then I’m sure she can share her secrets.

Show Notes

 James Boicourt

James Boicourt

Charm CIty Meadworks started off on co-founder James Boicourt's kitchen counter in the very early days. He is a master beekeeper and the driving force behind Charm City's mead-making operations.

In their 10,000 square foot facility and tasting room, James looks forward to hosting more events while continuing to launch more products and expand distribution to more territories.

For those interested in experimenting with beekeeping or mead making at home, the following resources will help you start your journey:

Mead Cocktails

According to Hillary Harris, Maryland Sales Manager at Charm City Meadworks, most people are familiar with medieval-style meads, which are fairly high-alcohol and fairly sweet. But Charm City Meadworks really focuses on dry-style meads. So, the first thing to keep in mind when attempting to use mead in a cocktail is to understand how sweet or dry it may be.

 Hillary Harris

Hillary Harris

Especially when you're using dry mead in cocktails, you have to account for two slight disadvantages:

  1. You can't swap it out 1:1 with a sweetener
  2. You can't swap it out 1:1 with a spirit

However, if you're clever, what seem like constraints initially can turn into advantages. For those willing to experiment with multiple sweeteners or multiple sources of ABV, you can add mead to your favorite cocktail by simply dialing back on the original spirit or sweetener in that drink and then letting the mead shine through.

Highball cocktails, punches, sangrias, and tiki drinks are all great opportunities to sub in mead for some other ingredient without too much risk of making something you won't like.