Kykeon is a mead-like beverage made from barley. In Greek mythology, kykeon was mixture consumed by Demeter and her followers in Eleusis, during Demeter's search for Persephone. It is still consumed today by religious devotees of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

In ancient Rome, barley water was a standard beverage carried among the supplies of the Roman military, and the average soldier would have consumed it regularly. Since the water had to be boiled to prepare it, kykeon and other barley water variants were generally safer to drink than water found in the field. This recipe is a 'fancy' version, since it includes wine or grape juice as a flavour additive. Leave out all grape products if you seek to be historically accurate to Roman barley water, but include it if you seek accuracy to the Eleusinian kykeon.


60g pearl barley

125ml sweet white wine*

5 cups water

2 tbsp honey

Fresh mint or pennyroyal mint, crushed or shredded finely

WARNING: NEVER use pennyroyal essential oil for kykeon! It is extremely poisonous and acts as an abortifacient.

Place barley in a large saucepan and add all of the water. Bring to a boil and cover the pot, allowing it to simmer for 90 minutes.

Strain off the resulting juice into a separate container, and keep the boiled barley aside. You can later combined it with milk and honey for a hot cereal breakfast.

When the juice has cooled, add the honey and wine, then add additional water to taste and texture preference.

Add mint leaves. Chill and serve.

*White grape juice is a suitable substitute if you prefer the kykeon to have absolutely no alcohol content.


Iron Noder Challenge 2014, 17/30