At its heart, mead is simply honey, yeast and water; but mead can have a wide variety of flavours depending on the honey & yeast used, additives (also known as “adjuncts” or “gruits”) such as fruits used and the method of ageing.
- Acerglyn: A mead made with honey and maple syrup.
- Black mead: A name sometimes given to the blend of honey and black currants.
- Bochet: A mead where the honey is caramelized or burned separately before adding the water. Yields toffee, chocolate and marshmallow flavors.
- Braggot: Also called bracket or brackett. Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt—with or without hops added. Welsh origin (bragawd).
- Capsicumel: A mead flavored with chili peppers.
- Cyser: A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together – similar to cider, except most of the sugars derive from the honey.
- Great mead: Any mead that is intended to be aged several years. The designation is meant to distinguish this type of mead from “short mead” (see below).
- Hydromel: Literally “water-honey” in Greek. It is also the French name for mead. It is also used as a name for a light or low-alcohol mead.
- Melomel: Melomel is made from honey and any fruit. Depending on the fruit base used, certain melomels may also be known by more specific names.
- Metheglin: Metheglin is traditional mead with herbs and/or spices added. Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves or vanilla. Welsh word for mead is medd, and the word “metheglin” derives from meddyglyn, a compound of meddyg, “healing” + llyn, “liquor”.
- Morat: Morat blends honey and mulberries.
- Omphacomel: A medieval mead recipe that blends honey with verjuice (a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit; lemon or sorrel juice, herbs or spices were sometimes added to change the flavour); it could be considered a variety of pyment.
- Oxymel: Another historical mead recipe, blending honey with wine vinegar.
- Pyment: Pyment blends honey and red or white grapes. Pyment made with white grape juice is sometimes called “white mead”.
- Rhodomel: Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water.
- Sack mead: This refers to mead that is made with more honey than is typically used. The finished product contains a higher-than-average ethanol concentration (meads at or above 14% ABV are generally considered to be of sack strength) and often retains a high specific gravity and elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads (which have no residual sweetness) can be produced.
- Short mead: Also called “quick mead”. A type of mead recipe that is meant to age quickly, for immediate consumption. It can also be champagne-like, depending on the methods and yeast used.
- Show mead: A term which has come to mean “plain” mead: that which has honey and water as a base, with no fruits, spices or extra flavourings. Since honey alone often does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life cycle, a mead that is devoid of fruit, etc. will sometimes require a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes to produce an acceptable finished product.
- White mead: A mead that is coloured white with herbs, fruit or, sometimes, egg whites. Also a name sometimes given to white grape pyment.
Many different countries also have their own particular names for mead, as well as recipes specific to that country. There are as many different ways of brewing mead as there are countries that brew it!
Distilling Mead: Liqueurs, Brandy and Jack
Mead can be distilled to a liqueuer or brandy strength, however this is illegal in many countries, including the US and the UK. Freeze-distillation however is legal in the UK, and in many states in the US. It involves partially freezing the mead then pouring off the unfrozen alcohol as “honey jack” in much the same way that applejack is made from cider. It is the only legal method of home distillation in the UK, and results in a stronger mead with double or triple the strength of a normal mead.