Libertyville spa adds mead to its list of offerings
Last summer, Libertyville spa owner Cindy Nennig approached village leaders for guidance on a somewhat unusual request to attract business.
On a trip to Colorado, Nennig visited a honey products store and learned of an age-old beverage that evoked images of knights and jousting.
"In the back, they had a mead tasting bar," she said. "That was my inspiration."
Selling and offering tastings of the honey-based liquor might be a fun way to help offset the unending grip of the coronavirus, she reasoned.
It took awhile to secure local and state approvals. But patrons by appointment Wednesday through Saturday now can sample and buy mead at Nennig's CR Spa Salon Ltd., 530 B North Milwaukee in downtown Libertyville.
"A lot of it is word-of-mouth," Nennig said. "We've had a whole list of people wanting to come in."
Nennig initially thought she would be able to be up and running with the idea in time to host a winter event. But getting to that point took longer than expected.
"It's a new and innovative and creative service and product that isn't being offered right now," Nennig told the village board's license and permits committee in October.
Village officials agreed. But since mead wasn't available in this manner anywhere else in town, a special liquor license was needed.
"I think it could go very well here," village Trustee Rich Moras said at the time. "The question is, how do we write it so it doesn't open Pandora's box?"
In mid-December, Nennig became the first and so far sole holder of a G-2 liquor license. That allows her to charge for mead tastings at the spa and also sell the product to go.
But Nennig wasn't done navigating the system. A state liquor license was needed and any independent contractors who worked at the spa and wanted to serve or sell mead needed Illinois Liquor Control Commission Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) certification.
"It's one of the oldest alcohol beverages in the world, but it's making a comeback," said Karin Johnson, a stylist, who is certified to serve and sell.
A flight of four small samples costs $15. COVID protocols are followed and no food is offered.
"I'd never tried it," Johnson said. "It's very unique. I can really detect the flavors."
Mead is created by fermenting honey with water. Fruits, spices or other ingredients can be added to create various flavors. Nennig carries several varieties from meaderies in Chicago, Valparaiso, Indiana, and elsewhere.
"Some is sparkling, some is sweet, some is like wine, some is aged in bourbon barrels," said Nennig, who said she has acquired a taste for mead.
"I was a wine drinker anyway," she said. "Now, I'd say I'm half and half."
Mayor Terry Weppler said mead tasting "sounded like another thing for people to enjoy," and creating the license was a way to for the village to assist businesses during the pandemic.
"Things are loosening up, but it's still tough on businesses," he said. "Anything we can do to help."