When you think of mead, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? Game of Thrones-style feasts and overflowing goblets, perhaps. Cocktails? Not so much. But Birmingham bar The Vanguard seeks to change that with its new menu of mead cocktails.
The Vanguard team, Samuel Boulton, Luke Morgan and Niamh Neary, decided to demonstrate the honey-based liquid’s versatility in mixed drinks based on the demand they were seeing in the bar, which has grown its mead offerings since its opening in February 2018.
‘In our first year we sold 4,000 servings of mead, about 70% in cocktails,’ Boulton, co-founder of The Vanguard, told Imbibe. ‘After we looked at our first year’s data, we figured it was time to give mead cocktails more attention.’
‘Mead in general has many different expressions and styles based on the honey used and the abv. There’s a complexity that you don’t often see in other liquids,’ commented Boulton.
But with this complexity, he said, come challenges.
‘The liquid can be difficult to work with in drinks because it’s a very different sweetness level to, say, a liqueur. It’s also not anywhere near as intense flavour-wise as a liqueur, so you have to use a lot more liquid. You end up really adding sweetness to the drink.’
Through the development process, Boulton and The Vanguard team devised ways to balance this sweetness without masking the mead’s complexity.
‘We’ve found any kind of split-base cocktail helps to balance the sweetness – so equal measures of mead along with a spirit. Any kind of fruit alcohol, like an eau de vie, is great at drying out the drink.’
He used this approach in the development of the Bassano Word, a mix of Lyme Bay Rhubarb Mead, lemon grappa and pear brandy. ‘Just a few dashes of the pear brandy from a dropper bottle dries it and massively and balances it,’ Boulton said. ‘But it took us quite a while to figure out, and you have to use the right mead in the right way.’
The Vanguard at 1,000 Trades, 16 Frederick St, Birmingham, B1 3HE