Wassail: A Traditional Holiday Beer Punch

Posted on December 15th, 2009

Wassail
Wassail is a traditional punch made of beer, fruit and spices, similar to hot mulled apple cider. It’s usually served at Christmas time and was originally given to carolers (wassailers) for their songs and blessings. It’s great way to warm yourself up on a cold Christmas night or any time you’re a bit chilly.

So many recipes for wassail have come along since the Middle Ages that the beverage is now more of a loose genre than a strict recipe. You can make wassail out of whatever spices, booze and fruit you want, but there are some common elements in most recipes. Baked apples are the most prominent ingredient, followed by cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Beer is our preferred alcohol, but you can use anything including wine or hard cider.

Here’s a recipe adapted from Alton Brown‘s suggestions:

Ingredients:

  • 6 small Fuji apples, cored
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 100 ounces ale (about 8 12-oz bottles)
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1  teaspoon Allspice
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2-inches long
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Put the apples into an  glass baking dish. Drizzle the brown sugar onto each apple, dividing the sugar evenly among them. Pour the water into the bottom of the dish and bake until tender – about 45 minutes.

3. Pour the ale into a large slow cooker or large pot. Mix in the cloves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set the slow cooker to medium heat or, if using a pot, set the stove to medium to low heat. Bring the mixture to at least 130 degrees F, but do not boil. Once brought to temperature, you may strain the wassail through a sieve to remove the excess spices and make it easier to drink.

4. Add the apples and the liquid from the baking dish to the wassail and stir to combine. Ladle into cups and serve.

What type of beer to use, like most of the ingredients in wassail, is really up to you. If you want to follow tradition, any English ale, such as a porter or brown ale would suit the recipe well. Alternatively, a nice Belgian dubbel or any other malty style would do. Because hops tend to increase in bitterness when cooked, hoppy beers such as IPAs are probably not the best choice. Then again, there’s no wrong way to make wassail.

Happy Holidays and Happy Wassailing!