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.
The sweetness of your wassail will be entirely dependent on your choice of apple cider, which tends to be pretty sweet. If you would like a warming but less sweet holiday drink, try my mulled wine or hot toddy.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Cocktail
Learn how to make wassail cocktails with real apple cider, ginger, lemon, spices and, of course, bourbon. Wassails are perfect for warming up on cold days! Recipe yields 4 to 6 cocktails, depending on how much of the warm cider mixture you use per drink.
- 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 1 ½ 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).
Recipe adapted from The Seasonal Cocktail Companion by Maggie Savarino.
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!