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Entrepreneurs bank on mead as new darling of alcohol boom

By JONATHAN CRIBBS
Staff Writer

WILMINGTON, Del. (Sept. 1, 2015) — The inspiration for Liquid Alchemy Beverages came from a single sip.
Terri Sorantino and Jeffrey Cheskin were in Portland, Maine in 2012 and stumbled into a cafe when Cheskin noticed a menu item: Lavender lemonade mead.
They ordered, took a sip and now three years later it’s lead to Liquid Alchemy, a new small business and the beginning of what Cheskin said he believes is the start of a mead explosion.
It’s also the start of a new alcoholic beverage business committed to using local Delaware agricultural products, including mead’s most important ingredient: Honey.
“It’s pretty unique, and we’re still discovering new stuff about it all the time,” Cheskin said. “This is the next big alcoholic boom that’s going to take place in the country. Wine had its time. Beer had its time. Craft beer had its time. This is a little like craft wine.”
Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water and flavoring it with almost anything — fruits, spices, hops, etc. Shortly after their trip north, Sorantino and Cheskin, who are engaged, made it their goal to bring mead to northern Delaware.
The store, called a “meadery,” gets its honey from a family in Middletown.
It also buys lavender from Lavender Fields in Milton and rustles up produce for other beverages at farmers’ markets in the Wilmington area, Cheskin said.
They’re also growing for themselves, including Thai chili peppers.
They recently purchased 4,000-square foot space — the former home of a roofing company — at 28 Brookside Drive, an industrial corridor, he said.
The space will include offices and a tasting room replete with an L-shaped bar and a near-museum of antiques dedicated to the history of wine making and the greater history of Delaware.
Many of those are stacked in the basement of Cheskin’s office where he works as a local chiropractor.
“We don’t want to make a stuffy wine bar where you walk in and you have to hold your pinky up,” Cheskin said.
The company already has a website up — including different flavors of mead to be served.
They include: Choco-Cherry-Bon-Bon, made with fresh Bing cherries and Peruvian raw cocoa nibs; Cosmo-Naughty, a drink that tastes like a traditional cosmopolitan except it’s made with completely different ingredients, including blood oranges, passion fruit and pomegranate; and Dark-Cider-of-the-Moon, made with apple juice, fresh brown sugar and local honey.
“I’ll never go on record in saying it’s healthy for you, but the honey we’re starting with is healthy as heck,” Cheskin said.
The beverages are gluten-free, said Sorantino, who’s also a personal trainer.
But mead’s biggest appeal is likely to be its versatility.
“Wines are limited to the grapes,” Cheskin said. “We’re not limited at all. We’re limited to anything you can put in your mouth. … You name it, you can make it with this stuff. Honey makes probably a better base for alcohol than grapes or grains because it’s just different. I don’t know how to describe it.”
Liquid Alchemy will open this fall, though a date hasn’t been set, Cheskin said.
Customers will be able to buy beverages by the glass or in bottles or growlers.