The toughest ingredient to find might be the sweet briar, which has been made into a popular tea in Europe for centuries. It’s good for you, too – a cup of sweet briar rose hip tea contains your whole daily recommended dose of vitamin C. It became a staple of nutrition during the lean years of World War I, and it was common to hear the expression “we are getting by on our hips and hops,” referring to rose hip tea and beer as sources of vitamin A and C.
It grows naturally (and is even sometimes declared an invasive weed) in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. If you can’t find it to purchase for your mead, you may need to forage or grow your own.
The other ingredients are pretty easy to find.
Queen Elizabeth’s Metheglyn (adapted from the original)
1 gallon water
3.5 pounds honey
1/4 tsp acid blend
1 tbs yeast nutrient
1 packet Madeira yeast
.5 ounce rosemary
.5 ounce thyme
.5 ounce bay leaves
.25 ounce sweet briar
1 Campden tablet
- Dissolve honey in primary with acid blend, yeast nutrient, and 1 gallon of room temperature water.
- Rehydrate and pitch yeast.
- Add Campden tablet.
- Attach your airlock and allow it to ferment for 3-5 weeks, until fermentation slows.
- Siphon off your lees and allow it to settle for 6 months.
- Rack back into primary fermentation container.
- Place your herbs in a nylon brew bag, tie it tightly, and place into primary.
- Taste your mead each day, and remove herbs when the taste is to your liking. Remove the bag.
- Age for 6 more months, racking every 2 months or so.
EDIT 7/26/16: Charles Butler’s Original Recipe
As a back-up to the above, here’s the original recipe published by Charles Butler in the third edition of The Feminine Monarchie: (1634)
First, gather a bushell of Sweet-briar-leaves, and a bushell of Thyme, half a bushell of Rosemarie, and a pecke of bay-leaves. Seeth al these being well washed in a furnace of faire water: let them boil the space of halfe an howre, or better: and then powre out al the water and herbes into a vate, and let it stand til it be cold. Then strain the water fro the herbs, & take to every six gallons of water one gallon of the finest hony, and put it into the water cold, and labor it together half an hour: then let it stand two days, stirring it well twice or thrice each day. Then take the liquor and boil it anew: and when it doeth seeth, skim it as long as there remaineth any drosse. When it is clear, put it into the vate as before, & there let it be cooled. You must then have in a readiness a kive of new ale or beere, which as soon as you have emptied, soddainly whelme it upside downe, and set it up againe, and presently put in the Metheglen, & let it stand three daies a working: and then tun it up in barrels, tying at every tap-hole, by a Pack-thread, a little bag of Cloves and Mace, to the valew of an ounce. It must stand half a year before it be drunk of.
(It seems a bit strange but Charles Butler was a proponent and activist in standardizing spellings in the English language.)