Why It Works
- Red wine, cider, and citrus juice paired with warming spices make this perfect for cold weather.
- Wassail is highly customizable and recipes vary greatly between villages, giving you ample room for experimentation.
It's too bad we're not all in rural Carhampton right now, or Gloucestershire, or really any Western European village with an apple orchard celebrating Apple-Wassailing Day. Rousing apple trees from sleepy wintertime, in hopes of a bountiful crop later this year, is a sport for many Brits on January 17th each year. As apple cheerleaders, they carry torches and bang on pots and pans to wake-up napping Fijis and Staymans.
At the core (heh) of this, is hot wassail, a spiced drink that falls somewhere between cider, punch and mulled wine (each village has their own recipe, some with dry sherry or beer). Villagers rally around the biggest apple tree then pour hot wassail all over tree roots and finally break out the shotgun to scare away evil, crop-ruining spirits.
It's hard to find Shakespearean-era apple folklore festivals on this side of the pond, but some pubs whip up the 17th century cocktail in December and January. It wasn't on this otherwise awesome wintertime drink-tionary, but an Irish pub in Newport Beach, California called Muldoon's serves up a lovely version in snifters, with adorable crabapples sinking at the bottom.
A call to Muldoon's revealed a pleasant hostess who gave me the house recipe in her Irish brogue. That recipe appears below.
- 4 cups red wine
- 2 cups cranberry juice
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 orange or tangerine, peeled and juiced (peels reserved)
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves, nutmeg and any other like-minded spices
- Cinnamon sticks
In a 3-quart saucepan or saucier, combine wine, cranberry juice, cider, orange or tangerine juice, 4-to-6 citrus peels, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat and cook for 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Serve warm.