World's oldest alcoholic drink making a trendy comeback

Mead — the world's oldest alcoholic drink — is fast becoming the new drink of choice for experimental cocktail lovers. 

English Heritage sells more mead in the UK than anyone else. The world’s oldest alcoholic drink is making a comeback, and new figures show that English Heritage sells a bottle of the ancient drink every 10 minutes. 

The drink is now hot on the heels of its younger and hipper cousin — gin — as sales increased by an average of 10 per cent year on year for the past three years.

As the UK’s largest retailer of mead, English Heritage will be offering free tasting samples of the drink at Enchanted events this winter. Come along to enjoy our illuminated gardens with an ancient winter warmer.

Browse our range of meads

Viking vice to trendy tipple

Dating back thousands of years, mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits or spices. It was once thought to be the drink of the gods, falling from the Heavens as dew and then gathered by bees.

Mead was also believed to improve health and prolong life. There is also a theory that mead was given to newlyweds to enjoy in the time after their marriage, creating the term 'honeymoon'. 

Once the Vikings’ drink of choice, mead now has a new and growing following who are putting a modern twist on the historical classic. Far from the flagons of old, modern mead drinkers enjoy the 9000-year-old beverage served over ice in cocktail glasses. 

To celebrate the revival of this golden brew, English Heritage has collaborated with The Vanguard — the UK’s first Cocktail Bar & Meadery — to create three new mead cocktails. See the recipes below to try them for yourself this Christmas. 

Mead has been around for thousands of years. The Old English story Beowulf from around 1000AD includes the phrase "meodu scencu," (mead-cup) [Image: The British Library, Cotton MS Vitellius A XV]
Mead has been around for thousands of years. The Old English story Beowulf from around 1000AD includes the phrase "meodu scencu," (mead-cup) [Image: The British Library, Cotton MS Vitellius A XV]

Historical throwback with the modern twist

With his meadery opening earlier this year, Samuel Boulton, Managing Director at The Vanguard in Birmingham, has seen mead taking off with a younger generation:

'As one of the world’s oldest alcoholic drinks, mead has sometimes had quite an old world reputation, but we’ve seen that dramatically change over the last five years. With the success of Game of Thrones, as well as the rise in popularity of experimental cocktails, you could definitely call mead the new up and coming drink and our customers really enjoy that historical throwback with the modern twist.'

Cameron Moffett, English Heritage Collections Curator, said:

'There’s evidence of mead being consumed thousands of years ago and it was the power drink of ancient Europe before winemaking had developed. New research into English Heritage’s collections from Wroxeter and Hadrian’s Wall shows that mead was being made in the Roman period in Britain. Once wine started being imported honey was also used to make mulsum, a popular sweetened wine drink. We’ve also found evidence of mead being produced and stored at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, in the 5th and 6th centuries AD for use in great feasting events. It’s wonderful that this very old drink is now being discovered by a whole new generation.'

Samuel Boulton, Managing Director at The Vanguard, the UK's first cocktail bar and meadery

Try it yourself - Mead cocktails to make at home

Try creating your very own cocktail at home this Christmas, with these exclusive mead cocktail recipes from English Heritage and The Vanguard. 


Honeyed Gin Old Fashioned

You will need: 

  • 50ml Cotswold Distillery 1616 Aged Gin
  • 50ml Heritage Mead
  • 1/2 tsp caster sugar (or 10ml sugar syrup)

Add all ingredients to a short glass with ice and stir until sugar is dissolved, adding more sugar to taste if needed. Garnish with some orange zest.


Monks’ Fizz

You will need: 

  • 40ml Heritage Mead
  • 40ml fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 75ml English sparkling wine

Add ingredients to a champagne coupe glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.


Ye Olde Hot Tod

You will need: 

  • 50ml Heritage Mead
  • 75ml hot water
  • 10ml whisky
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 3 tsp lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a warm glass mug mixed until honey is dissolved and garnish with Star Anise & Cinnamon.

Prefer your mead pure and simple? Swap your usual dessert wine for a glass of mead to accompany Christmas pudding and mince pies.

Browse our range of history-inspired meads and wines in our online shop

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