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How the World's Oldest Booze Is Finally Becoming Cool

MEAD IS A TERRIBLE NAME FOR A DRINK. Honestly, it's neither cute, nor sexy, nor all that easily comprehensible. Often, it just sounds like you're saying "meat.” That's good comedy, for sure, but it's atrocious branding.

Mead -- or honey wine -- has existed for thousands of years. Almost every civilization on Earth figured out how to ferment honey at some point or another, long before beer or wine, or even Fireball. With that legacy, spanning our planet and its history, you'd think it'd get a little respect. At the very least, you'd think people would know a little about it.

Yet, when most of us consider mead, we just picture frilly-panted Renaissance courtiers, or pointy-helmeted vikings, or men in cargo shorts bellowing, "m'lady." Plenty of trend pieces invoke these tropes because they're the easiest way to provide context, but the clichés are more than a little misleading about the drink's history.

You’re probably not picturing a 9,000-year-old Neolithic Chinese jar, for instance, when you hear the word; or first-century Romans penning recipes that call for rain water; or medicinal mead in 13th-century Wales; or the ancient and on-going mead tradition in Ethiopia based around tej, the country's national beverage.

In America, mead has long been something to sample at the odd renaissance fair. Not anymore. Ten years ago, there were around 150 meaderies in the US. Today, that's up to roughly 500, plus 200 more awaiting federal license approval.

Though more people are making the beverage, it's still oddly hard to find in bars and grocery stores. But thanks to a dedicated community of mead loyalists, that is starting to shift. Soon, "grabbing a glass of mead," might roll off the tongue as naturally and easily as "a glass of wine" or "a beer." In fact, the oldest booze in the world might finally be cool.

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