When you think of mead, or honey wine, you might think of a sweet basement brew that a relative gifted to your parents, which they kindly accepted and then promptly dumped out. Bushwick’s artisanal meadery Enlightenment Wines and bar Honey’s (93 Scott Ave.) is seeking to open peoples’ eyes and tastebuds to what should come to mind for mead. They’re the new generation of honey wine: well-made, natural, herbal, local, and very, very drinkable. And because they’re all natural, there’s evidence that you’ll have less of a hangover, too.
Mead is created when you ferment honey with water, then combine it with herbs, fruits, spices, grains or hops. It tastes a lot like what most people call wine, but it isn’t grape wine. It’s honey wine. But similar to grape wine, mead can be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling, dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.
Owner Raphael Lyon has been making mead for several years (under the mead brand name Enlightenment Wines), and his business partner Arley Marks has a beverage background, most notably having designed the cocktail menu at Mission Chinese. At Honey’s they’re not only working on-site to make their own mead, but they also use all local ingredients. Earlier this summer they had a dandelion-picking party, where dozens of friends gathered upstate at prime dandelion time to prance through fields and forage for the common flower and its greens. And they’re currently growing more than 40 herbs in pots on their rooftop, including unusual medicinal and culinary gems like scented geranium, margarita mint, spilanthes, dittany of Crete and Mount Olympus flower—which they’ll transport inside once winter strikes. Whatever they can’t grow or gather themselves is sourced locally. Their lavender is from Long Island, raw unfiltered honey comes from Western New York, and elderberries, cranberries, cherries and black currents come from upstate.
I was able to try all of their meads, and as a frequent natural wine drinker and having been honorarily baptized by California wine culture when I lived there, it’s an understatement to say I was impressed with their mead. The Floralia is a beautiful, gentle and slightly sweet lavender and juniper blend. Even though it has the perfume of lavender, it doesn’t taste like soap or potpourri; it’d make a lovely gelato and a beautiful gift. The Rubacouri is their “fall rosé”—an apple and elderberry mead, which would be fantastic for a Fall party or to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. The St. Crimson, with a badass snake printed on the bottle, is a sultry and romantic blackcurrant wine. At Honey’s they often pour it over ice to make a spritzer, or use it instead of sweet vermouth to make a negroni variation. It was by far the most grapey I tasted, with an herbal aroma. I also tried the sparkling mead Raise The Roof, which is a bit more expensive by the bottle and part of their collectors’ edition. It was surprisingly dry and luxurious. The only reason I didn’t purchase a bottle to take home was because at $50 per bottle I wanted to get a little more bang for my buck, so I ended up buying both the St. Crimson and the Rubacuori ($25 each).
Honey’s has a full liquor license, so you’ll not only be able to sample their incredibly quaffable meads but also dig into their cocktail menu, which is constantly changing based on what’s available. Some of the drinks use mead, many don’t; the menu is exciting because it’ll always be adapting to whatever mead is on hand. And it’s worth noting that mead itself is a perpetually changing product, based on the season, the weather, and whatever herbs are used.
The meadery also functions as an event and classroom space, with workshops on a wide range of relevant topics: mead making, herbalist talks, natural mescal makers from Mexico, foraging walks, mushroom cultivation, and potion making with Bushwick witches. They also recently hosted an outdoor screening of the presidential debates, complete with rotten vegetable throwing.
Honey’s | 93 Scott Ave., Bushwick
They’re open every day except Monday; 5pm–2am weekdays, 5pm–4am weekends.
Some upcoming events are listed here, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on their mailing list. | Follow them on Facebook