As we walk along Española Way, the leopard-print bikinis and oversize sunglasses thin out and begin to give way to a slightly seedier, more hardened street crowd. Among them, a viking.
Standing outside Kill Your Idol, the Beach's anti-SoBe scene bar, is a lanky kid wearing a pentagram shirt and a viking helmet. Bartender Nick Perdue is ready to show us KYI's latest addition: an ancient spirit called mead.
If you're thinking mead is a hearty liquor made for the more robust warrior type, it's OK, we thought the same thing. But actually it's a honey wine with a simple fermentation process. Water, honey, and yeast form the base, while spices and fruit may be added to provide texture and flavor.
After three weeks of selling the sweet drink, Perdue says KYI is already ordering a new shipment of cases from supplier B. Nektar. A meadery in Ferndale, Michigan, B. Nektar produces the most modern take on mead, according to Perdue.
Traditionally, mead is served warm in Scandinavia, accompanied by mulling spices. But Perdue says KYI's mead, a first in Miami Beach history, is just as appropriate for our perpetual summer weather.
"When I drink this one," he says as he picks up a goblet (authentic, we know), "I feel like I could be sitting by a pool. Or like I'm a bee, harvesting nectar."
The flavor he is referring to is orange blossom (made with orange peel, tangerine, and honey from citrus trees), which is traditional in Saxony and the United Kingdom. Other varieties KYI carries are wildberry pyment (pyment is a mead made with grapes) and vanilla cinnamon, a sweet mead made with sliced vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks.
As we prepare to try them, Perdue sets the mood by turning on some viking metal, which he says is more vitriolic and heroic. "If The Lord of the Rings had a different soundtrack for its battle scenes, it should be this," he adds.
The first one we try is wildberry pyment. Straight from the bottle (a $25 investment), it tastes as sweet and light as sangria. It's delicious and fruity, but doesn't make us feel girly because a sign behind the bar declares it's the wine of the vikings.
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Our next sip is vanilla cinnamon, which Perdue says has won B. Nektar its first award in the 2007 National Homebrew Competition. The smell is slightly daunting (maybe a combination of strong medicine and rotting tree bark), but a swig proves it tastes much better than it smells, leaving a cinnamon aftertaste. Perdue steams it for us to try the more traditional style, which makes it smell kind of like a warm muffin coming out of the oven. But the taste is lost and we cast it aside to try the next one.
Finally, the orange blossom is light and fresh, which sort of reminds us of coconut water, only with a more citrusy taste. It's dry and, when combined with clementine, mashed strawberry, vodka, and triple sec, composes what Perdue calls the Ogden sangria ($8).
If you want to sample the mead (and perhaps taste the viking spirit), B. Nektar co-owner Brad Dahlhofer will be at KYI July 27 holding a mead tasting.