[The following comes from our friends at www.alehorn.com — the place to go for fine vessels for mead! Check out their site for horns, mugs, cups, and more.]
Traditional drinking vessels for mead
As soon as the first beekeeper discovered that the air, rainwater, wild yeast, and honey had made something wonderful at the bottom of his beehives, he realized he needed a cup to drink it with.
In recent years, the materials of choice for cup making has been glass, ceramics, or even metal, but in the centuries before that, people made cups with whatever was abundant, which was almost always the horn of a bovine.
Horns made from different types of cattle can be found among burial sites all over the world, ranging from aurochs to oxe to domesticated cows. Kings, soldiers, and commoners alike from Asia, Europe, and even South America have been found buried with drinking horns – a prized possession that denoted wealth and plenty while remaining a helpful tool for carrying and imbibing drink.
Now that our society is rediscovering the ancient art of mead making, so too are they re-adoptiong the ancient art of horn making. A modern mead drinker with access to meads from around the world should definitely consider selecting the cupware that best benefits the characteristics and historical legacy of the mead he’s about to pour.
Traditional Sweet or Semi-Sweet Mead
If your sweet mead is a very traditional style, it may be more festive to drink it in a traditional vessel. Here are a few that we love:
Traditional Viking Drinking Horn
Recommended Meads: Fox Hill Traditional, Peach, Spiced
While very few ancient horn cups have survived due to nature taking its course, we know from burial sites like the famous one at Hochdorf that Germanic people and many others in the ancient world loved this style of horn. After butchering a cow, it was an extremely practical way to make use of what was at hand.
The drinking horns that are made today are still a great way to use the whole beast with the added bonus of helping us revere the traditions of the ancients while drinking the world’s oldest beverage.
Mazers are large drinking cups you might recognize from ancient Roman and Greek illustrations, and are still used in ceremonies of welcome and friendship by the Scots. In traditional ceremonies, the leaders of two different groups would drink from the same cup (or “quaich”) as a sign of trust.
They are usually made of wood or metal (or both), and are around the same size as a soup bowl.
Recommended Meads: Fox Hill Blackberry, Ginger-Apricot, or Apple
The word “tankard” in English commonly refers to a wooden cup, especially those you’d find in a Medieval pub. Later, these cups would have commonly been made of pewter. However, cups with handles have been around much longer than that, and tankard shaped horn cups with a heat formed handle filled with mead would have graced many ancient feasts.
Modern Dry or Off-Dry Mead
Recommended Mead: Fox Hill Special Reserve
Many meads in tasting rooms and pubs around the country are being served in glass stemware similar to wine. If the mead is semi-sweet or sweet, the delicate honey fruit notes can really shine in a glass where the aromas can waft and pool gently near the top. Holding and drinking from a wine glass definitely elevates the experience.
The same mead will taste very different depending on the vessel you’re using, so think about the experience you’d like to have and get the cup to match!