How to Make Wassail: A Traditional Christmas Mulled Cider

Updated on November 25, 2019
DixieMockingbird profile image

Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.

Wassail is a punch from the British Isles that is traditionally made for Christmas or New Year's. It's a mulled apple cider that will warm you on even the coldest days.
Wassail is a punch from the British Isles that is traditionally made for Christmas or New Year's. It's a mulled apple cider that will warm you on even the coldest days.

Here We Come A-Wassailing

I attended a tiny middle school founded in 1780 that was set way back in the Appalachian mountains. Needless to say, there were quite a few well-entrenched traditions, including an event at Christmas that involved a lot of caroling.

"Here We Come A-Wassailing" is one of the carols I remember best, although for years I had no idea just what it meant. It wasn't until about a decade ago that I figured out that wassail was a drink, not necessarily an event. This realization did not detract from the delight that ten-year-old me took in the old Christmas carol.

Wassail is actually both a beverage and an event. Originally, it involved making a punch during the holidays and carrying it door-to-door through town. The carriers of the punch either gave it out, demanded gifts from the homeowners, or both. Apparently, the tradition occasionally involved pouring punch on trees, proving once and for all that some of our holiday celebrations make no sense whatsoever. That doesn't make them any less fun, though—or less delicious.

I think the original punch most likely contained copious amounts of alcohol, which meant the tree-drinking was at least a bit more understandable, if no less illogical. Wassail is like eggnog in that respect. This version is alcohol-free, although you could certainly add a good shot of bourbon or rum if you'd like.

I make mine in the slow cooker now, although an ordinary stovetop will work just as well. If you use a slow cooker, just set it for four to six hours. If you're doing it on the stovetop, keep your pot on a mere simmer for about two hours or so. Either way works just fine. My favorite thing about making wassail is that it involves throwing the ingredients into a pot and letting it do its thing while I do something else, which I love. Who needs more fussiness during the holidays?

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 2–3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 24 whole cloves (24 cloves is a lot—you may want to use fewer, but I like to use a good amount because I love their flavor)
  • 2 oranges, halved
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pour the cider into a crock pot, soup pot or large Dutch oven and set the temperature to low or medium-low.The acidic nature of the lemons and oranges is a beautiful counter to the sweetness of the cider and brown sugar and the rich pungency of the spices.Studding the citrus with the cloves makes it far easier to serve the drink later by ensuring the little cloves don't get lost in the wassail. Cutting the oranges and lemons in half lets the citrus juice escape into the cider as the wassail simmers. The cloves really perfume the whole drink.Keep the heat low and cook it slow—the easy heat will release the flavors of the spices and citrus and allow the wassail to blend beautifully.I use fresh nutmeg. it's just so different from pre-ground and tastes amazing. Nutmeg can dominate very easily, so start with a 1/2 teaspoon and taste. If you want to add more, go ahead!Wassail is best served fairly hot.
Pour the cider into a crock pot, soup pot or large Dutch oven and set the temperature to low or medium-low.
Pour the cider into a crock pot, soup pot or large Dutch oven and set the temperature to low or medium-low.
The acidic nature of the lemons and oranges is a beautiful counter to the sweetness of the cider and brown sugar and the rich pungency of the spices.
The acidic nature of the lemons and oranges is a beautiful counter to the sweetness of the cider and brown sugar and the rich pungency of the spices.
Studding the citrus with the cloves makes it far easier to serve the drink later by ensuring the little cloves don't get lost in the wassail.
Studding the citrus with the cloves makes it far easier to serve the drink later by ensuring the little cloves don't get lost in the wassail.
Cutting the oranges and lemons in half lets the citrus juice escape into the cider as the wassail simmers. The cloves really perfume the whole drink.
Cutting the oranges and lemons in half lets the citrus juice escape into the cider as the wassail simmers. The cloves really perfume the whole drink.
Keep the heat low and cook it slow—the easy heat will release the flavors of the spices and citrus and allow the wassail to blend beautifully.
Keep the heat low and cook it slow—the easy heat will release the flavors of the spices and citrus and allow the wassail to blend beautifully.
I use fresh nutmeg. it's just so different from pre-ground and tastes amazing. Nutmeg can dominate very easily, so start with a 1/2 teaspoon and taste. If you want to add more, go ahead!
I use fresh nutmeg. it's just so different from pre-ground and tastes amazing. Nutmeg can dominate very easily, so start with a 1/2 teaspoon and taste. If you want to add more, go ahead!
Wassail is best served fairly hot.
Wassail is best served fairly hot.

Directions

  1. Place apple cider in a crockpot. You can also let it simmer on the back of the stove in a Dutch oven if you like. If you do this, you'll have to remember to stir it and cook it for only half as long.
  2. Add cinnamon sticks, allspice, and brown sugar. Stir.
  3. Press the whole cloves into the skin of the oranges and lemons.
  4. Cut the citrus fruits in half. Add them to the crockpot with the cider.
  5. Add freshly grated nutmeg.
  6. Cover the crockpot and set to low.
  7. Cook for 4–6 hours.
  8. Serve hot. Merry Christmas!

Serve hot! The fragrances of the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and spices really awaken fabulously when the drink is warm.
Serve hot! The fragrances of the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and spices really awaken fabulously when the drink is warm.

The Origins of Wassail

Nobody actually knows how to make "traditional" wassail. The origins of the drink date back to the Middle Ages. Wassail recipes weren't written down until the middle of the 19th century, so it's difficult to say how closely our modern concoctions resemble the wassails of the past. It is likely that the beverage originally contained far more spices than it does today. It probably included mace and likely featured higher concentrations of cloves and nutmeg. This may be why the wassails of the past were laced with so much alcohol. Modern palettes are very different, however, and this recipe reflects that.

Lyrics: "Here We Come A-Wassailing"

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wandering
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy unto you
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year
And God send you a happy New Year.

Our wassail cup is made
Of the rosemary tree,
And so is your beer
Of the best barley.

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbors' children,
Whom you have seen before.

Call up the butler of this house,
Put on his golden ring.
Let him bring us up a glass of beer,
And better we shall sing.

We have got a little purse
Of stretching leather skin;
We want a little of your money
To line it well within.

Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a moldy cheese,
And some of your Christmas loaf

God bless the master of this house
Likewise the mistress too,
And all the little children
That round the table go.

Good master and good mistress,
While you're sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who are wandering in the mire.

Some more modern versions of the carol replace "wassailing" with "caroling," but the original version was all about wassail. It was traditionally sung around Christmas or New Year's.

© 2017 Jan Charles

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The recipe sounds delicious, especially for Christmas. I remember singing the carol that you describe when I was a child.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      2 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      This sounds good. I have not heard of Wassail before. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, delishably.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)