Good evening! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I’m a bit behind on my holiday cocktail series this week. Photographing a drink after 5 on weekdays has proved impossible so the series may become a weekend affair.
No collection of holiday cocktails would be complete without hot spiked cider, so today I present to you: the wassail! According to Maggie Savarino in The Seasonal Cocktail Companion, “wassailing” is an Old English tradition with pagan roots that celebrates the fall harvest.
I had never heard of a wassail before coming across the recipe in Maggie’s book, but apparently they are commonly served in the Northern Midwest states. It’s basically a blend of apples and spices, spiked with bourbon, with endless variation. You cannot go wrong.
- 4 cups apple cider (or unfiltered apple juice, doctored up with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)
- ½ inch nub of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
- 2 lemons, sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise (optional, but they're pretty!)
- ½ vanilla bean, slit down the middle with the insides scooped out (or ¼ ounce vanilla extract)
- Bourbon (plan on about 1½ ounces per drink. I used Jim Beam)
- In a medium saucepan, combine all of the nonalcoholic ingredients and simmer for at least thirty minutes, preferably over an hour.
- Use a jigger or shot glass to measure bourbon into mugs. Pour in your hot spiced cider. Ideas for garnishing: cinnamon sticks, star anise, lemon slices and/or thinly sliced red apple (highly recommended).
Change it up: Substitute some of the cider for brown ale or real cranberry juice. Add other whole spices like cloves, allspice berries and/or white peppercorns. You can keep a big batch of cider warm in a crock pot!