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Spotlight On: Mead

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When you hear the words "golden delicious," think mead (not apples!), the drink of choice for various peoples throughout the ages, including ancient Greeks, twelfth-century Slavs, and modern-day Ethiopians. Loosely defined as any beverage made from honey, water and fermented yeast, mead is certainly not a mainstream brew in the U.S. but still commands a substantial fringe following among alcohol aficionados (and, um, Renaissance Faire devotees).

By some accounts, mead is the world's oldest alcoholic beverage, having first appeared in China and (what is now) Iran around 6000 BC. Sometimes infused with fruit, spices or hops, mead has a sweet, silky flavor that makes it a natural complement for complex curries, seasoned grilled meats and robust semi-soft cheeses. Different meads vary significantly in alcohol content, so check the bottle: One glass may be just enough to warm you up or may render you incapable of operating heavy machinery for the remainder of the evening.

Consuming mead is easy, as its saccharine quality makes you feel as if you're drinking a heightened version of lemonade, but finding mead in Houston is a bit trickier. Select locations of Spec's carry a few brands (with Chaucer's being my personal favorite), as does the Russian General Store (9629 Hillcroft St.). To drink mead outside the confines of your own home, head to Flying Saucer (705 Main St.), which carries black raspberry and cinnamon-vanilla flavors, or Blue Nile (9400 Richmond Ave.), which offers an Ethiopian variant called tej.

Summertime finds many of us scrambling for icy mojitos and margaritas, but consider mead next time you crave a cool grown-up libation. When served in a refrigerated pewter goblet, it's especially refreshing.

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