What is a Metheglin?
When doing research one home winemaking, some may come across websites, books and articles where the making of meads is also discussed. Although there is some debate about whether a mead is technically a wine, it is made with the same process – that of using yeast to ferment honey and water mixed together.
Some mead makers may refer to something called "meth." Now, chemistry is often used when making meads, but this type of "meth" has nothing to do with what is being sold on the streets these days.
Instead, it is a short form for "metheglin," a mead based beverage. The term metheglin specifically refers to meads that have herbs and spices added during the fermentation and aging process. allowing them to develop complex flavors. In the Middle Ages, recipes for such beverages (which were also sometimes called gruits), were guarded by monks in a very jealous manner. Such was the esteem that metheglins held in those days.
Adding herbs to brewed and fermented beverages was thought to provide an antiseptic quality to the finished product which would retard bacterial growth. In some cases, herbs can have a bacterial inhibiting quality but today it’s still best to also use sulfite for this purpose and let the herbs main purpose be to add complex flavor and aroma.
Originally, the most common herbs that would be added to honey meads were yarrow, rosemary, and myrica (also known as bayberry or sweet gale).
Today, mead makers experiment with a wide range of herbs and spices and often use various combinations. Some of the more common herbs and spices include cinnamon, fennel, sage, spearmint, thyme and vanilla. A good rule of thumb when making metheglins is to use 2 to 3 cups of fresh herbs or 2 to 3 ounces of dried herbs per gallon. Stronger spices such as cinnamon should be used in smaller quantities – about half an ounce per gallon of metheglin.
Juniper berries are a flavoring used in gin and have also been successfully used to make metheglin.
If you’ve got a herb garden and access to some honey, why not consider making your own mead based beverage flavored with your fresh herbs? Perhaps you’ll be jealously guarding some of your own secret recipes!