Wassail cocktail
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.

wassail ingredients

how to make wassail

Wassail Cocktail
4.6 from 5 reviews
Serves: 4
Warm up with hot, spiked apple cider!
  • 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)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all of the nonalcoholic ingredients and simmer for at least thirty minutes, preferably over an hour.
  2. 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).
Adapted from The Seasonal Cocktail Companion by Maggie Savarino. Variations: sub 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!


  1. Shelley says

    What a fun giveaway! And this recipe looks amazing! I think my ‘go to’ cold weather drink is hot tea… green, rooibos, chamomile, and the Good Earth Original tea are all favorites. I am not sure how to spell it, but my favorite cold weather potent potable has to be Gløg (??). It’s a spiced red wine. I love red wine ;-)

  2. Emily says

    mulled wine has been a favorite this fall. i’ve made a big batch of cinnamon clove simple syrup and i’ve been creating some cocktails to go along with that lately, too.

  3. Emily says

    I’m a huge fan of your blog! You’re such an inspiration, I also live in a small, college town and feel like we live in similar towns! Love your photography and I’ve made a lot of your food (and its all so good!)
    Favorite Drink: I think I’ll go with red wine.
    Thanks for doing a giveaway. :0)

  4. Sarah says

    You have so many delicious things on your blog! I love a hot vanilla chai, soooo good. I became a fan of yours on facebook.

  5. says

    This is pretty different than my version, but sounds equally delicious! I need to give this a try!

    My favorite cold-weather drink is an Old Fashioned. Nothing warms quite like bourbon and bitters!

  6. La Perle says

    I really enjoy a nice glass of spiced rum on cold days- the hints of vanilla and cinnamon transport me to warm places and make the grey and cold disappear!

    Beautiful website, and your Cookie is darn cute!

  7. Kelly D says

    Hot chocolate was my number one for a number of years… but lately I have really loved the Aspen Mulling Cider Spices! Mix with one gallon of apple juice and it tastes great!

  8. Libby says

    Our (extremely old, British) recipe is nothing like this. I guess there are a lot of regional variations. Ours is a closely guarded family secret, or else I’d share, but it is absolutely unique and wonderful. Everyone should have a winter tradition like it :)

  9. says

    Yum! I love the shot with the curl of steam coming up out of the cider, great picture. On cold days I love to make a dark hot chocolate with cinnamon and some heat from cayenne pepper. I haven’t spiked it yet, but I bet a shot of baileys would be awesome!

  10. Gwynne says

    Thanks for the recipe! Cold weather drinks are my absolute favorite. I just love a good cup of tea or coffee especially with a little added spike to make it extra delicious. But my fav has to be iCherry Blossom tea with warm milk and vanilla powder. Happy Holidays! Love the blog!

  11. Nicole says

    mmmm seasonal cocktail extravaganza?! Yes please! I have to admit that me and hot cocoa are bffs – it is my comfort beverage <3

    ngallo58 at gmail dot com

  12. Christine says

    I absolutely love you blog and I’m definitely going to try your Wassail drink this Christmas. My all time favorite Holiday Cocktail is Hot Mulled wine. It’s easy to make and the result is delicious.

  13. candace says

    my favorite winter time drink is coffee. i love it all year round but i especially love trying out new festive creamers and liquers when it is frosty outside!! i believe i will be making this wassail for a work christmas party! looking forward to it!!

  14. says

    I clearly need to stop checkin your blog on Monday mornings as now two weeks in a row I’ve wanted to drink early in the morning! Looks delicious!

  15. Samantha says

    My favorite holiday drink is my mulled wine, I make it with oranges, and a slew of seasonal spices…star anise, cinnamon sticks, allspice, ect all tied up in cheeseclith for easy removal. I can’t wait to try you wassil tonight…finally something to make with the bourbon in my cupboard that we will never drink!

  16. Sue Walsh says

    Ooooh a taste of home for this warm climate…….I’m making up a jug for sure this Christmas! Thanks so much.
    Hot Chocolate with a marshmellow floater is my all time fav cool weather drink!

  17. Jennifer @ Mother Th says

    This Wassail looks delicious! Perfect to snuggle up with on a cold winter evening. My favorite hot drink would probably be Chai Latte as I am enjoying one right now too! :)

  18. says

    This book sounds amazing!

    I’d have to say my favorite cold weather drink is mulled cider or mulled wine. I sure love those mulling spices :)

  19. Jannifer says

    My favorite winter drink is tea: Irish breakfast for early in the day and chamomile or a spicy herbal tea in the evening. And red wine!

  20. Angela Tapia says

    My fav cold weather drink at the moment is Mighty Leaf Chamomile Citrus Tea with lots of honey and some lemon. If I need an extra kick I’ll add some Whisky for a bit of a hot toddy affect. Great blog, found through Pintrest and now a fan on FB! Yay

  21. zazzie says

    I’ve became your official fan :)

    And I truly hope that this long list of fans gives you what it takes not to have another one of those depressed days again.. :) Also, just so you know, if you were not here to post me what to cook the next day.. I really would miss you :)) And I love looking at your photos… so pls keep up the good work :)

  22. says

    Hi Cookie and Kate! I’m a facebook fan! My favorite cold weather drink, at the moment, is bourbon…lately I have been putting in some warm mulled cider! If I have a vanilla bean I add it to the warming cider with cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of ginger syrup. It warms you up from head to toe!

  23. says

    Hi–I just found your blog and am so happy to find another fabulous vegetarian (not vegan–no offense to vegans, of course) blog to read!

    My favorite winter beverage is my mom’s mulled cider. When I’m lucky, all the alcohol hasn’t cooked out of the red wine she adds. Ha!

  24. says

    I’m old-fashioned and love a warm cup of tea (berry blends are my favorite in the winter) or a nice little cup of Basil Hayden — both warm you up!

  25. says

    Love Wassail! I’m so glad you posted this! In high school I was in Madrigals which was bascially a dinner/show of mediveal times. We’d serve wassail and I’ve been missing it ever since. I think my favorite cold weather drink is just good old peppermint tea. :)

  26. Zoë says

    This looks delicious! I’m going to a “holiday drinks” party in a few days and was trying to figure out what to make – this may just be it! I think that my favourite holiday (and, well, year-round) drink is hot chocolate with peppermint (steep half a cup of peppermint tea, remove tea bag, then add cocoa powder, sweetener and warmed/frothed milk). Thank you for this recipe!

  27. Cynthia says

    Hot chocolate for the win! I’m experimenting with hot chocolate blocks that you can dip in a cup of warm milk….no winner yet, but the search continues!

  28. Samantha says

    So, we have had wassil every night this week….so good, thank you for sharing!! I did start putting the ingedients tied in cheesecloth for easy removal. I have also played with adding a few peppercorns, more nutmeg and allspice ect!

  29. says

    You are so right. Definitely can’t go wrong with this! I’m not much of a cocktail maker, but I’m trying to get better at it. Thanks for a delicious looking recipe.

  30. Angie says

    There is nothing better on a cold winter day than a good winter beer. Living in Kansas City I am a big fan of Boulevard Brewery and count the days every year until I can get my hands on a Nutcracker Ale!

  31. says

    Just became a fan on FB! Love this idea and I will definitely be trying it. As a Wisconsin girl I’m always in the mood for a good warm (spiked) beverage during the winter months. What I have recently been loving is Rumchata in my coffee or hot cocoa. It adds a bit of cinnamony rummness to your beverage. For those of you who may not be familiar with Rumchata here’s a link: http://www.drinkupny.com/RumChata_p/s1126.htm

    I promise you it’s AMAZING! It’s yummy on its own or mix with Cap’n Morgan (Cap’n Crunch Shots!) or Van Gogh Espresson Vodka.

    Bonus: it’s from Wisconsin!


  32. says

    We hunted and tested recipes for wassail and yours won – Last week we served up gallons of your recipe at our wassailing party and it was a huge hit! We have posters to commemorate it and I’d love to send you a set if you email back with your snail mail.


Leave a comment below:

Your comments make my day. Thank you!

Note: Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: