Flavor pairing with Danish Mjød
“With a growing interest in locally sourced ingredients and a “back-to-the-authentic”-zeitgeist I see a bright future for mead in cocktails in Scandinavia.”
Jesper Skov has been working in several bars in Århus, is cofounder of the cocktail consortium and has recently been collaborating with Malling Mjød to explore the use of mead in cocktails. As a cocktail ingredient he percieves mead as being somewhere in between dry vermouth and applejack and calvados because it is both sweet and dry. But different kinds of mead obviously have different uses. We asked Jesper to share some of his insights on flavor pairing with mead from his work with Malling Mjød in this interview.
How did your cocktail collaboration with Malling Mjød come about?
This collaboration happened due to my work for Spirit of Njord, a local gin distillery on the outskirts of Aarhus and Randers. Spirit of Njord had a cheese and gin pairing in collaboration with Arla Unika in Aarhus. On the shelves of this lovely cheesemonger-cum-deli-cum-wine merchant Malling Mjød also has a place so they wanted to utilize this product in the tasting as well. As designated bartender of the evening I had to come up with a few cocktails marrying gin and mead. After that Malling Mjød has contacted me occasionally to see where else we can go with mead in cocktails.
What makes mead unique and interesting in relation to cocktails in your opinion?
Mead to me is a fun and unique ingredient because of a few things. When I was contacted about mead in the first place I thought of the subpar non-potable stuff in clay pots I remembered from high school parties, therefore it was a great eye-opener to me when I had Malling Mjød. Instead of the overly sweet and viscid stuff of my memories what I had was something both dry and sweet with a certain earthiness to it. Like a marriage between a lot of different tastes and properties of other spirits. In relation to cocktails this has both limitations and possibilities because mead is quite its own thing. It is not an easy ingredient to work with.
What are the basic flavor components in mead that you work with as a bartender?
To me mead sits somewhere in between dry vermouth and applejack or calvados. This is because it is both sweet and dry. And then it has that honey tinge which is quite natural since it is a honey distillation. As a bartender then, you can utilize both sweetness and bitterness from mead, and depending on the other ingredients you can tweak these properties up or down.
What distinguishes mead compared to other sweet wines?
Mead has elements from other types of sweet wine but they are combined, Malling Mjød has quite a few different mead types in their portfolio. For instance Egelund to me is close to a dry vermouth whereas tør gylden mjød is more like a manzanilla sherry, which is dry and not really sweet. This is mead for savory food, perfect for seafood, asian dishes, or perhaps spanish tapas, Malaga style. Hyben Mjød is more like a sauternes or other sweet wine and marries well with cheese or desserts. But unlike other dessert wines, all these has a little bit of everything. As aforementioned they marry sweet and bitter in a way I think is somewhat unique.
Which ingredients, do you think have good synergies with mead in relation to cocktails?
Based on Malling Mjøds portfolio I can see several good pairings. The sweeter meads like Hyben Mjød is great with citrusfruits and berries of all sorts.
I made a cocktail called ‘the Meaded Myrtille’ where I combined mead with blueberries and this is a wonderful combination.
Mead also marries well with bourbon and applejack. If you mix it with some good rum, dry curaçao and lime you have a wonderful fresh libation as well.
Egelund Mjød being a dry mead, it can easily substitute dry vermouth in, for instance, a dry martini. It works wonders with gin and other bitter elements such as Aperol. I can easily see it in a more tangy version of a No.4 as well, with pepper and cardamom.
Which place does mead have in the Contemporary Scandinavian bar in your opinion and where do you think it is heading?
Jesper: With the Nordic wave at the moment, the aquavit craze, and along with an interest in locally sourced ingredients plus a “back-to-the-authentic”-zeitgeist I see a bright future for mead in cocktails in Scandinavia. I think we will see it more and more in Danish cocktail bars, both as a fun feature but also as a main ingredient at some point. After all sweet wines can be the base of a cocktail – just look at the Porto Flip and the renewed focus on lighter cocktails with a sherry, vermouth or amaro base. As is evident in the declarations above mead has a lot of applications even though it can be a peculiar acquaintance to begin with. So bartenders, crack some skulls and get to work!
About Jesper Skov:
Like many others I guess I started bartending as a study job solely to make ends meet and pay the bills. I think we can all agree that bartending is way more fun than beeping groceries in Netto or working a stock room. When I started I had absolutely no experience with cocktails, I barely new what a mojito was. Gradually working behind the stick sparked an interest in the history of the cocktail and the craft that goes behind creating wonderful libations. After 6 years behind the bar I am driven by an urge to show people the wonders of spirits and the combinations of them. Instead of masking the taste of the individual spirit with all kinds of mixers I want to showcase and enhance their elements with libations that compliments, rather than hides, individual spirits. Just as I love cooking I love creating cocktails because it is a never-ending adventure of taste and joy. It does not always have to be all homemade everything and bespoke this and that – a simple Manhattan with Antiqua Formula and Eagle Rare 10 is just as, if even more, lovely than all kinds of crazy craft concoctions. I mean, why does it all have to be so pretentious – if it tastes good, I’m up!
If you’d like to explore further you can read our feature on mead as a category in the form of an interview with Malling Mjød. Or try our own shot at a mead cocktail with sweet rosehip mead and amber: “Skjaldemjøden”: