Written by Sarah McCullen | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Made from fermented honey and water, mead was once a sought-after spirit for wedding guests and newlyweds. Now craft breweries like Queen’s Reward Meadery in Tupelo offer the ancient elixir in a variety of flavors to please every palate.
A “honeymoon” may seem like an odd name for a post-wedding vacation, but the unique term has a mystical, centuries-old story.
Long before wine filled the glasses at European and Nordic weddings, it was mead, a fermented alcoholic beverage of honey and water, that lifted guests’ spirits. As the bride and groom said their final goodbyes, they were given enough mead to drink a little every night for the first month, or moon’s phase, of their marriage.
“They thought that mead had magical powers and thought it would increase the couple’s fertility and their chances of having a boy,” said Jeri Carter, founder of Queen’s Reward Meadery in Tupelo. “They didn’t understand the fermentation process yet or why this honey water, if they left it alone long enough, would make them feel so good.”
Jeri and Geoff Carter first made mead about seven years ago, after experimenting with homemade wine kits. They felt brave enough to venture away from the kit after a few successful batches of homemade wine, but since grapes are hard to come by in Mississippi, they looked for recipes calling for alternative ingredients. Mead was the solution.
“By using local honey, we have the chance to showcase a really beautiful product of Mississippi,” Carter said. “All of our honey comes from within the state, and we make sure it comes from beekeepers who really take care of their bees.”
Queen’s Reward offers traditional mead just like you’d find centuries ago in the Old World, but also features a wide variety of unexpected flavors like blackberry, lemon and cranberry orange. They also produce a spiced mead, as well as dry varieties with flavor profiles similar to pinot noir and riesling.
“A common misconception when we tell people that we make wine with honey, is ‘oh, I don’t like sweet things,’ but it’s not all sweet,” Carter said. “Since traditional mead is just honey and water, it is very mild and on the sweeter side, but you can go crazy adding fruits and other flavors, and as the mead maker, we get to control whether it finishes sweet or dry.”
Queen’s Reward mead is available in liquor stores throughout the state, in their tasting room on McCullough Boulevard or online at queensreward.com.
Mix It Up
Queen’s Reward mead mixes well with other liquors to create unique cocktails perfect for any summer celebration. Recipes contributed by Queen’s Reward.
5 ounces Queen’s Reward Traditional Dry Mead
3 ounces orange juice
Splash of Cointreau liqueur, optional
Pour mead into a champagne flute. Add the orange juice and a splash of orange Cointreau liqueur for an added kick.
Queen’s Reward Blackberry Mead Old Fashioned
¼ cup wildflower honey
¼ cup water
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 orange peel
2 ounces Queen’s Reward Blackberry Mead
1 ounce bourbon
Splash of soda water, optional
Make a honey syrup by combining ¼ cup wildflower honey and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Heat until dissolved, no more than 1 minute, and set aside. Combine blackberries, honey syrup, bitters and orange peel in a large rocks glass. Muddle together, mashing the blackberries. Add a single large ice cube, followed by the mead, bourbon and a splash of water. Using a cocktail spoon, stir for 30 seconds.
2.5 ounces Kentucky bourbon whiskey
2 ounces Queen’s Reward Pucker Up Mead
Pour mead into a julep cup or Collins glass. Add bourbon. Fill with crushed ice and stir well until the glass becomes frosty. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
2 ounces rye whiskey
3 ounces Queen’s Reward Traditional Dry Mead
Dash of orange bitters
Orange and apple slices, for garnish
Stir the rye, mead and bitters well with cubes of ice. Strain into a glass, and garnish with orange and apple slices.
Maple Honey Palmer
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 ounce citrus-flavored vodka
5 ounces unsweet tea
4 ounces Queen’s Reward Pucker Up Mead
Lemon slices, for garnish
Mix the maple syrup and the vodka in a shaker with ice until combined. Pour the ice and maple mix into a glass. Add unsweet tea and mead. Garnish with a lemon slice.
Vanilla ice cream
Queen’s Reward Traditional Sweet Mead
Combine ice cream and mead in a blender and mix until it reaches a thick-but-smooth milkshake consistency. Serve with a dash of nutmeg.