Mead to Order

Make a toast--and warm yourself--with local mead

New Year's is about bubbles, but for the cozier holidays that come before, there's mead, a historic concoction made of fermented honey that has been making the rounds since the days of the Vikings.

And Chicago has its very own source: Wild Blossom Meadery, which crafts traditional and modern, flavored meads from honey gathered from its 80 beehives.

Mead is drunk year-round, but the traditional holiday iteration is mulled; warm the sweet Prairie Passion mead ($16 per bottle) with aromatics, then sip festively (click here to download the recipe).

Or try the Apple Cin ($16), a seasonal apple-honey mead that's made for heating. It's bottled with warm spices, hibiscus, chicory, chamomile and orange peel; warm the bottle in a pot of water and serve the drink in a brandy snifter–the better to catch its pielike aromas–or cellar it until next winter to let the flavors develop.

For a sophisticated (and gift-worthy) bottle, try Sweet Desire, an after-dinner mead that's aged one to two years in Bourbon barrels ($30). Serve it chilled and pair it like port–with chocolate, crème brûlée or anything else that will complement its caramely flavor.

Also distinctly modern: mead-beer cocktails. Wild Blossom owner Greg Fischer spikes wheat beer with the Prairie Passion to make a honey-wheat cocktail, and injects stout with a shot of his Wildberry mead ($15)–fermented with Midwest mulberries–for "a drinkable Black Forest cake."

Order Wild Blossom mead online or find it at West Lakeview Liquors, Lush Wine and Spirits and The Poison Cup