Name an obscure, long-forgotten spirit, and you can bet your next round of shots on the certainty that somewhere in New York there’s a specialty bar that slings it. Mezcal? Yawn, that’s amateur stuff. AGWA? There’s a Korean joint that’s got it. Raki? Your friend who did a semester abroad brought you back a bottle from Istanbul in 2010. But what about mead? No, this isn’t some Game of Thrones theme bar slinging the honey brew in stone mugs. Instead, Bushwick-based Enlightenment Wines, which soft opened last month, aims to cultivate an appreciation for the oft-forgotten art of making the beverage, which has roots that reach as far back as 6500 BC. Enlightenment Wines and its accompanying bar and tasting room Honey’s specializes in both traditional meads and updated modern cocktails, all with a focus on local ingredients and production methods.
For those of you who aren’t in the alcoholic know, mead is a type of wine in which different ingredients, such as flowers, fruits, and herbs, are fermented with honey and wild yeast in barrels. Enlightentment Wines produces a wide variety of meads, including ones made with dandelion flowers, apples, juniper, lavender, black currant, and more.
The whole enterprise is helmed by Raphael Lyon and Arley Marks (of Mission Chinese fame), who forage the ingredients for their concoctions in upstate New York and aims to add modern twists to the ancient beverage through inventive cocktails and blends. Marks, who designed the cocktail menu at Honey’s, serves up concoctions such as The Floralia Gimlet, which combines vodka, a mead made with juniper, lavender and marjoram, lemon, and sake. In addition to their meads, cocktails, and other sundry alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, Honey’s serves a seasonal rotating menu of bar snacks and nibbles, including in-house salt brined pickled veggies.
“We have some of the most interesting drinks in New York,” Lyon explained while talking about Honey’s’ menu. Although the soft opening was primarily for extended friends and family, Honey’s is fully open for business now and Lyon and Marks plan to eventually launch a full food menu in addition to their current snacks. They will also be launching guided tours of the meadery soon. For the two entrepreneurs, setting up their headquarters in Bushwick was a strategic choice: They wanted to take advantage of the neighborhood’s growing bar scene, as well as its industrial history.
“We need to be in a manufacturing area, and Bushwick offers an interesting combination of real manufacturing and a good public reach,” Lyon said. He also pointed out to Enlightenment Wines’ industrial aesthetic, where customers can order mead on tap at Honey’s and simultaneously watch the production taking place through a large window behind the bar.
Enlightenment Wines and Honey’s, which is located on 93 Scott Avenue off the Jefferson Street L stop, will be in good company: KCBC beer and the Brooklyn Cider House are in the area as well, making this spot a potential haven for those discerning boozers who like a bit of local bragging rights with their booze.
Enlightenment Wines, 93 Scott Avenue at Randolph Street, Bushwick. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 5pm onward.