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Book Review: Mead by Fred Minnick

I am so happy that Minnick decided to add this delightful edition to his ever-growing collection of spirits specific books. It’s a perfectly readable blend of history, culture and technique. The cocktail recipes are beautifully compiled, per his usual standard. This is a great book for the person looking for a first foray into the world of mead making and cocktailing.

As the title suggests, he manages to pack the sweeping history of mead into this dense little book. He portions the history by the various civilizations with mead-making history. While I respect any attempt at organization (especially in our characteristically disorganized industry), I would have personally preferred a global chronology that gave a little more credence to the movement of mead between the empires and the differences in its status and usage. I'm splitting hairs here, because Minnick does a wonderful job of all of that in the format he's chosen.

He also manages to avoid the pitfall of many booze historians - he broadens his perspective beyond the stereotypical Western storyline and pushes as far eastward as Russia and deep into Africa. I have a big respect for this; many times I've stopped myself at the threshold of the Page of Contents on what looked like an interesting title, because the author couldn't see past his own personal heritage. Given Minnick's clout as a writer in different fields of study, again, this isn't a surprise at all.

I was particularly drawn to his cocktail recipes. They are all intelligently constructed and speak to all skill levels, from people making cocktails at home to craft bartenders. In fact, the entire book is written with this in mind. It's a technically concise book that speaks to anyone who picks it up: if you're thinking about making a batch of mead for the first time, grab Minnick's book; if you have a bottle and don't know what to do with it, Minnick has you covered; lightly (or more seriously) interested in the culture and history of mead? Just ask Minnick.

There is a breadth of mead styles featured in the cocktail recipes, so I would recommend consulting your local stores before emotionally committing to one cocktail recipe or another. There are enough of each style to keep you entertained, though. I personally loved the possibilities for the Oxymel, which is essentially a spiced honey shrub:

1 750ml Bottle of Mead

1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1tsp Fennel Seeds

.5tsp Cumin

1 Gingerroot, sliced

1tsp Parsley

Pinch of Cardamom

Pinch of Thyme

5 Mint Leaves

Macerate for seven days, then strain into a fresh bottle.

Shrubs have enormous cocktail potential, and this recipe doesn't have the sugar content that many others do, giving the bartender room to play with other supporting flavors in the form of syrups and liqueurs. This recipe begs to be paired with fall flavors and dark spirits. Look for an update once my batch finished macerating!


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