Here we come a-wassailing!
If you’re anything like me, you used to hear that song when you were a little kid and wonder what the heck they were talking about. Was it some kind of dance? A term for singing Christmas carols? All I knew for sure is that the California Raisins sang it. I never took the time to figure out what it meant back then. (Come on, this was before Google existed).
Well, about five years ago I finally found the answer…and it was delicious. Wassail is basically blinged-out apple cider. It’s apple cider that went and got it’s nails done, had a nice pedicure, maybe a new hairstyle. I love spiced apple cider. Some people just want normal apple cider heated up, maybe a little caramel thrown in, and there you go. Not me. Do you like cloves? Do you like allspice and ginger? Do you like bourbon? Then, friends, this is the recipe for you.
I’ve made wassail a lot of different ways. The reason? There are a heck of a lot of recipes out there, and none of them are quite the same. Some have just apple cider and seasonings. More often, though, the apple cider is paired with another juice, like orange juice or cranberry juice. I’ve gone the orange juice route before, but I’ve always preferred cranberry. It just reminds me more of the punch I had when I was younger. I do, however, like a little grated orange zest or orange peel in my wassail now and again.
Wassail is a pretty old drink. They were slugging this stuff down in Medieval England, where it was filled with apples, honey, and mead. I don’t know why I know things like this. You think I could get my brain to remember more useful things, like really any kind of math. But no. Anyhoo, that is a drink I can definitely get behind. And since it was consumed by a lot of barrel-chested dudes spoiling for a fight, you can bet your mistletoe it had some alcohol in it. Now I’m not saying you have to add bourbon to this wassail. It’s flipping delicious, but you definitely don’t have to.
That’s what’s great about this recipe: not sure about cranberry juice? Add less of it, or substitute with orange juice instead. Make it more or less spicy depending on your taste. Add your favorite alcohol, or keep it out completely to make it kid-friendly. It’s your festive holiday drink. Have it the way you want it. So I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to go a-wassiling!
- 12 whole cloves
- 6 whole allspice
- ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 12 whole white peppercorns
- 1 gallon fresh apple cider
- 6 ounces cranberry juice
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 10-12 ounces bourbon
- Place cloves, allspice, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and peppercorns in a cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string.
- Combine the cider, cranberry juice, and brown sugar in a large soup pot. Toss in the cheesecloth of spices and heat on oven over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once done, discard cheesecloth.
- Fill mugs with one ounce of bourbon and then fill the rest of the way to the top with wassail.
- Serves 10-12