I love good produce and take recipe creation pretty seriously. But as the great Arlo Guthrie once said, “I know I’m supposed to be singing. But you can’t always do what you’re supposed to do.”
Sometimes you have to be silly.
Noodling around on the internet late one night, I came across this blog post from Patrick Rothfuss. If you’re not familiar, Rothfuss is one of the great fantasy authors, and a very funny guy to boot. He writes of his first foray into mead making:
“It’s 1999 or so, and I’m thinking that I’m going to take a crack at making some mead… I learn some interesting things. I learn that the name “metheglin” comes from the old English term for medicine. Metheglin was mead with a bunch of herbs in it. Because, as you know, herbs are good for you.
But as I read more it all started sounding like a huge pain in the ass… I wasn’t looking for a part time job. I didn’t want to babysit this goddamn thing for 6 months, petting it and taking its temperature and cooing sweet nothings in its ear.
No. I wanted to muck about with glass bottles and tubes for an afternoon. I wanted to make a potion. I wanted to do some goddamn mad science and then not think about it again until the stuff was ready to drink.
Then I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought. “This is bullshit. Vikings made this, and I guarantee that they did not own a hydrometer. They just thumped it together in a barrel and then drank it and pillaged some shit.”
Now, I do like my hydrometer. I think the Vikings probably would have used yeast nutrient if they’d had some (and actually, from the evidence we have, it seems like they threw fruit and grain and other good stuff into their mead, which would have done much the same thing). And, I dunno, I’m conservative, but I was a little worried about getting dissolved gemstones in my mead (which Rothfuss did), or for that matter involving hallucinogenic moonflower seeds (yup, he did that too).
But the silly metheglyn idea rolled around in my mind for ages. I kept on wondering where it could go. And then everything came together in the middle of a Dungeons and Dragons game.
I was going to make my own potion: a potion for adventurers. A potion for the brave.
In D&D, the ‘potion of heroism‘ makes you incredibly lucky and hard to hurt: you’re all fired up and ready to fight a dragon. For that I wanted a few things. An awesome colour (got it thanks to butterfly pea blossoms). A sweet, rich, spicy base (sweet mead with a whole shop o’ spices). And a real challenge for the drinker. In D&D lore, the potion sizzles and smokes. I didn’t actually want to hurt my friends, but in the same spirit, I did want the potion to present a challenge. I mean, you can’t just have a cup of chamomile tea and go off stronger to smash orcs, that seems unfair. I went with scorpion chilli.
Butterfly pea blossoms (clitorea ternatea) turn acidic drinks a lovely shade of blue or purple, depemding on the PH. The dried flowers can be purchased in small packages online. If you’re in no hurry, grow them at home. They are very pretty in the garden and easy to cultivate. They really don’t taste like much at all.
Potion of Heroism Mead
Makes approximately 6.5L of mead must, which I fermented in a bucket, then racked to a 5L jug with one spare 750ml bottle, then finally to a final 5L jug. You could halve the amount and just throw it into one gallon jug and leave it for six months, as Rothfuss did. It wouldn’t be its best possible self, but it’d be totally fine. If you do that, add the infusion of spices last, when you bottle the mead. If you’ve never made mead before, the Reddit community sidebar has some great pointers.
OG 1.123, semisweet when finished at 14%. The finished gravity and ABV will depend on your yeast.
- 2.8kg of the lightest coloured honey you can find, such as clover or a very light orange blossom
- Water, to 6.5L
- 1/4 tspn potassium metabisulphite
Second day (24 hours after the potassium metabisulphite is added):
- Yeast, 5g, rehydrated in Go-Ferm, 7g. I used 71B
Third day and into fermentation:
- Yeast nutrient, divided into four portions
In a jar, and strained into the jug at the final racking:
- 1 cup of vodka
- About 20 dried butterfly pea blossoms
- 20 black pepper seeds
- 3 cardamom pods
- 3 slices fresh ginger
- A pinch of dried wormwood (or use gentian or hyssop: this is to add a little bitterness, but you could leave it out)
- 1 stick of cinnamon, broken up
- 1 clove
- 1/4 tspn grains of paradise, crushed
- Zest of half a lemon and half an orange
- One hot chilli, sliced in half (I used a scorpion, left in for one day only, because I like to make my adventurers work for their potions).
These final ingredients only take a week or so to work their flavours into the vodka, but I wanted to make everything up all at once. You can strain the vodka into a new jar after a week, then just set it aside somewhere dark until your mead is ready to rack.
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