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With Zydeco Meadery, Eric Depradine is producing beverages that pay homage to beloved places – including the Ozarks

With Zydeco Meadery, Eric Depradine is producing beverages that pay homage to beloved places – including the Ozarks

Zydeco Meadery Eric Depradine

Eric Depradine is the owner of Zydeco Meadery. 

Zydeco Meadery Ozark Beauty

Ozark Beauty is one of Depradine’s most strongly flavored meads – and one of his personal favorites. It has three simple ingredients (water, yeast and honey), but the honey is harvested in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, giving the mead an intensely rich flavor, mineral undertones and a powerful honey finish. A wildflower blend containing soybean flower nectar and cotton flower nectar, the honey has a consistent flavor profile year-round, and it provides a robust quality and residual sweetness to the mead without the back-sweetening process that some meads undergo. “Drinking Ozark Beauty makes you feel like you have a bit of the Ozarks in your glass,” Depradine says. This and other Zydeco meads can be found at retailers throughout the region, including Beer Cave Wine & Spirits in Overland Park, Kansas, and 456 Wineries, a wine incubator in Wamego, Kansas, where Depradine produces the meads.

The handcrafted meads from Zydeco Meadery in Wamego, Kansas, stem from a long family tradition started by owner Eric Depradine’s grandmother, who taught him how to make a nonalcoholic hibiscus drink (also known as Sorrel, Bissap, Agua de Jamaica and Zobo, among other names) found in the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast of Mexico, northern South America and West Africa. Depradine and his wife, DeAundra, decided to try their hand at recreating the drink with an alcoholic twist, and their hibiscus mead was born. Today, Zydeco meads feature honey, fruit and other ingredients sourced from locations in the U.S. that have special meaning for the family. Mass Memories, for example, is an homage to Depradine’s home state of Massachusetts. Made with cranberry blossom honey from Nantucket and dark amber maple syrup from the Berkshires, it should be enjoyed chilled like the breeze on the shores of Cape Cod. Creole Queen, one of Zydeco’s most popular meads, has nothing but honey, which comes from the prairies of Louisiana where the Depradines met and fermented their first bottle of mead in 2011.

How has your heritage influenced your recipes? My grandmother is from Trinidad, and she learned to make a hibiscus drink, Sorrel, from her great-grandparents. Sorrel is a common drink in the Caribbean that’s associated with the holidays, but it transcends ethnicity. Everyone likes it because it’s sweet, with a cranberry-like flavor. Zydeco’s hibiscus mead, made with hibiscus Calyces, ginger, spices and Kansas wildflower honey, has a similar flavor profile to Sorrel, but it goes through a fermentation process. Zydeco specializes in dry meads, but the hibiscus mead based on my grandmother’s Sorrel recipe is sweet.

What does it mean to you, your family and your community that Zydeco Meadery has become such a success? Black folks have a long tradition of making alcohol in this country, even though it’s not well-documented. We want to be a part of that tradition and make a small contribution to that little-known part of American history. That’s what motivates us – because running the business can be stressful at times. We don’t come from money, and it can be a challenge, but we want to obliterate the stereotype that people of color don’t belong in alcohol manufacturing.

How do you hope to expand Zydeco in the future? My wife and I drive from Kansas City to the Old Town Farm & Art Market in Wichita, Kansas, every Saturday, rain or shine, to sell the mead; they’ve been so supportive of us. We’ve also joined the Rosedale Farmers Market in Kansas City, Kansas, on Sundays, and we hope to expand to a third market in 2022. My wife, our kids and I also planted a small apple orchard in 2020 with the hope [of growing] our own apples for hard cider – the orchard should be in production in the next four or five years. We do already sell one cyser [a mead fermented from apple juice rather than water] called Kanza Cyser. Apples played an important role in the history of Massachusetts, which is where I’m from, so I would like to continue to incorporate them into our products.

Zydeco Meadery, zydecomeadery.net

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