Touted as an ancient cure-all tonic, oxymel is easy to prepare and use as a modifier in your favourite cocktails and mixed drinks.
What is Oxymel
The name oxymel is derived from the Latin, where oxy means “acid” and mel is “honey.” Believed to be a cure-all tonic used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, like many concoctions, it has its origins in medicine.
Oxymel consists of equal parts vinegar and honey infused with herbs. It has some similarities to shrubs and switchel, however, shrubs tend to be fruit-driven and switchels can be made with any sweetener. Oxymel is specifically made with raw honey, vinegar and herbs.
The ancient remedy has many applications in the cocktail and culinary worlds. It is a way of preserving flavours, creating infusions, be it herbal, floral or spice and in its simplest form, used as a refreshing drink.
The Persians have their version called sekanjabin, one of the oldest syrups in Iran. The combination of vinegar, serkeh and the honey sweetener, angabin dates back to the ancient times and is usually consumed as sharbat-e sekanjabin during the hot months.
The process of making oxymel is simple. Combine equal parts raw honey and apple cider vinegar, your choice of herbs and infuse for 2 to 4 weeks in a glass jar. The photo above shows Thyme Oxymel after it has been left to infuse for 4 weeks, ready to be strained and used.
How to Make Oxymel
- 1 cup raw honey
- 1 cup raw apple cider vinegar, slightly warmed
- your choice of fresh herbs or dry ingredients (see combinations below)
Equipment: glass jar with lid, coffee filter or plastic wrap, swing top glass bottle, strainer
- Fill a quarter of a glass jar with your choice of herbs or other ingredients.
- Over gentle heat, warm the apple cider vinegar.
- Add the raw honey and slightly warmed apple cider vinegar.
- Put a coffee filter or plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar, cover with the lid and give the mixture a shake.
- Store the jar out of direct sunlight on the kitchen counter for 2 to 4 weeks.
- Give the jar a gentle shake every few days.
- When it’s ready to your taste, strain the oxymel into a swing top glass bottle and store it in the fridge. It keeps for approximately one year.
Tips for Making Oxymel
- Important: If the jar has a metal lid, put a coffee filter, wax proof paper or plastic wrap between the lid and the jar. This will act as a barrier to avoid corrosion.
- Oxymel is traditionally made in a 1:1 ratio but there is some flexibility. Use more honey for a sweeter profile or add more vinegar for a more sour and acidic flavour. We found the 1:1 ratio and 4 week maceration to yield an ideal balance between sweetness and acidity, however, this can vary depending on the botanicals you use.
- For the Thyme Oxymel in the photo above, we used fresh thyme but dried herbs can also be used.
- Oxymel can also be made using the sous-vide method by ‘slow cooking’ at 60 °C for 30 minutes.
Oxymel Ingredients & Combinations
Aside from raw honey and apple cider vinegar, oxymel lends itself to many combinations. Here are a few suggestions and combinations to get you started:
- woody herbs such as thyme, olive herb, rosemary, sage
- soft stemmed herbs such as tarragon, basil, coriander, mint
- sweet warm spices such as cinnamon, clove, allspice, cardamom and star anise
- bittering agents such as citrus peel, wormwood, yarrow, angelica, gentian
- edible savoury flowers from dill, rosemary, chives, nasturtiums, mustard greens
- perfumed flowers such as sambac (Arabian jasmine), rose, lavender, chamomile, pineapple sage, geranium, hibiscus
- edible flowers such as calendula, marigold, rose, borage
- turmeric, black peppercorns and bruised cardamom pods
- lemon, ginger and turmeric
- garlic, chilli and ginger
- mint and lemon balm
- red berries, dill and caraway
Oxymel in Cocktails
In cocktails, oxymel can be used it as a modifier, a flavour enhancer that adds a sweet and acidic balance to a drink. It mixes well with botanicals in spirits such as gin and aquavit. A barspoon can be added to a Gin and Tonic to give the drink extra depth. In sour style cocktails, it complements drinks such as Sidecar, Ramos Gin Fizz, Bee’s Knees and White Lady. Oxymel can also be used with dark spirits such as whisky and bourbon as well as non-alcoholic cocktails by topping up with soda water and garnishing with herbs or fruit.