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Traditional Wassail

Embrace the holiday spirit with our classic Wassail recipe. This warm, spiced, and fruity beverage is perfect for gathering and toasting to good health during the festive season.

February 5, 2024
WassailPhoto By Canva
Difficulty Easy
Servings 4 people
Preparation 10 mins
Cooking 120 mins
Total 130 mins



  1. In a large pot, combine the apple cider, orange juice, and lemon juice.
  2. Add the whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, cracked nutmeg, sliced ginger, apple slices, and orange slices to the pot.
  3. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat. Be careful not to boil it, as this can cause the flavors to become muted.
  4. Let the mixture simmer for about 1-2 hours to allow the flavors to meld together. The longer it simmers, the more pronounced the flavors will be.
  5. If you're using rum or brandy, add it just before serving to preserve the alcohol content and flavor.
  6. Use a ladle to serve the wassail into mugs, making sure to avoid the whole spices.
  7. Garnish each mug with a cinnamon stick or an apple slice for an extra festive touch.
  8. Wassail is best enjoyed warm, making it a perfect drink to cozy up with on a cold evening.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Wassail
Serves 4
Amount Per Serving


  • Use fresh, high-quality apple cider as the base for the best flavor.
  • Depending on the sweetness of your cider and juice, adjust the amount of lemon juice or add a bit of sugar if needed.
  • Simmer the wassail slowly to infuse the flavors without boiling, as boiling can reduce the intensity of the spices.
  • Feel free to experiment with additional spices like star anise or cardamom for a unique flavor twist.
  • Alcohol Content: Adding rum or brandy is optional but can add a delightful depth of flavor. Add it at the end of cooking to maintain its potency.
  • Serve in small mugs or cups, as wassail is quite rich and flavorful.
  • Fresh orange or apple slices make excellent garnishes and enhance the visual appeal.
  • The whole spices can be tied in a cheesecloth for easy removal before serving.
Rate This Recipe

Wassail is more than just a warm, spiced beverage; it's a toast to good health and happiness during the holiday season. This traditional drink, rich in history and flavor, is a staple in holiday celebrations. Originating from the Old Norse phrase "ves heill" and the Old English "was hál," meaning 'be in good health,' Wassail has evolved into a beloved part of winter festivities. Its warm, comforting aroma and taste are perfect for chilly evenings and gatherings with loved ones. Here's how to make this festive drink that's sure to become a holiday favorite in your home.

Origins of Wassail

Wassail, a word that evokes the warmth and cheer of the holiday season, has roots that go far beyond its delicious taste. The tradition of wassailing dates back to medieval England, where it began as a ritual to ensure a good apple harvest the following year. Groups would visit orchards, singing and sharing drinks from a wassail bowl, a practice believed to awaken the cider apple trees and scare away evil spirits. Over time, this ritual transformed into a more general expression of good health and prosperity during the Christmas season.

The evolution of the wassail drink itself mirrors this change. Originally, wassail was a hot mulled cider, made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, topped with slices of toast as a symbol of abundance. As the tradition spread across England and into other parts of Europe, the recipe began to vary, incorporating local flavors and customs. By the time it reached the American shores, wassail had become the warm, spiced, and often alcoholic beverage we know today, commonly enjoyed during the holiday season.

Today, wassail is not just a drink, but a symbol of holiday merriment and conviviality. It embodies the spirit of "wassailing" - celebrating life and wishing good health. While the traditional toast-topped version is less common, the essence of wassail as a communal and heartwarming beverage remains. Whether shared amongst carolers or sipped quietly by the fireside, wassail carries with it centuries of tradition, a taste of history, and the joy of the holiday season. This festive drink continues to be a cherished part of Christmas celebrations, bringing together friends and family to toast to health, happiness, and the spirit of the season.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Wassail is an excellent choice for holiday gatherings, not only for its festive flavors but also for its convenience in being prepared ahead of time. Here’s how you can manage the make-ahead process and store this delightful beverage:


Cook in Advance: You can prepare Wassail up to 2-3 days before your event. Follow the recipe, let the mixture cool down, and then transfer it to the refrigerator. The flavors often deepen and meld together, making it even more delicious over time.

Large Batch Preparation: Wassail is ideal for making in large batches, which can save time if you’re hosting a big gathering.


Refrigeration: Store Wassail in the refrigerator in an airtight container or a large pitcher. It should keep well for about 3-5 days.

Room for Expansion: If you plan to freeze Wassail, ensure there's enough room in the container for liquid expansion. However, freezing is less recommended, especially if alcohol is included.

Removing Spices: If you’ve added whole spices, consider removing them before storage to prevent the flavors from becoming too intense.


Gently Reheat: When you’re ready to serve, reheat the Wassail gently on the stove over low heat. Avoid boiling it to preserve the flavors.

Microwave Option: For smaller servings, you can use the microwave, but be sure to do so in short intervals, stirring in between to evenly distribute the heat.

Adding Fresh Garnishes: Upon reheating, you can add fresh garnishes like apple slices or cinnamon sticks to refresh the flavors.


Freezing Wassail: While it’s possible to freeze Wassail, the thawing and reheating process might slightly alter its flavors and textures. It’s best enjoyed fresh or stored in the refrigerator.

By utilizing these make-ahead and storage tips, you can enjoy Wassail without the last-minute preparation rush, making your holiday entertaining smoother and more enjoyable. This traditional beverage not only warms the body but also adds a touch of historical charm to your festive celebrations.

Recipe byPetite Gourmets

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