Mead—fermented honey—is a Polish drink that goes back to the Middle Ages. In Polish sagas and epics, warriors drink mead before battles. Even now it has an indefinable, and probably undeserved, reputation as a healthier form of alcohol. In Poland you can buy bottled mead, the making of which grows more sophisticated every year. At a dinner organized in Warsaw not long ago by Slow Food Polska—the Polish branch of the international Slow Food movement—Anne was served several extraordinary organic meads, each made by a slightly different method. The company that produces them, Pasieka Jaros, has been researching and experimenting with ancient methods of mead production for more than thirty years.
This recipe is something slightly different: It\'s a hot form of Honey and Ginger Spiced–Vodka, which you can make at home. Serve this as a winter cocktail—or after a day spent cross-country skiing—and drink it in front of a roaring fire.
In a medium saucepan, bring the honey and water to a boil, skimming any foam from the surface. Add the cloves, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean pod, and orange rind, return to a boil, and remove from the heat. Let sit for 1 or 2 minutes, then bring to a boil again. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for at least 30 minutes to steep. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or a regular strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and again bring to a boil. Pour in the vodka. Stir well and serve piping hot.