This alcoholic wassail recipe is an amazing holiday tradition. It’s made in a slow cooker but can also be made on the stove-top. It’s easy to make with fruit juices, spice, and spirits, sure to spice your holiday affairs with revelry and cheer! It’s the perfect way to invoke the smells of Christmas pasts and toast to good health.
It’s time for another alcoholic Christmas drink! This White Christmas Cocktail is a favorite, but perhaps a bit of an odd choice to serve for Christmas dinner, at least if you’re feeding a crowd.
It’s just going to be the three of us this year, despite my mother-in-law not being that far away, but hopefully, we can experience a larger gathering next year.
If the title ‘alcoholic wassail’, conjures up thoughts of revelers wandering the streets singing to their heart’s content, then you’re not wrong. Wassail has as many tales as it has carols.
Not only was wassail a greeting, but also a mingle of Christmas traditions including this holiday drink, the Alcoholic Wassail.
A little history
The word itself has had many transformations in its history steeped in rich tradition. Wassailing dates back to the Pagans walking the orchards, singing, and pouring wine on the ground to encourage bountiful crops.
The term has continually evolved from a simple greeting from Middle English ‘waes haeil’ meaning ‘be in good health’ to the holiday custom of caroling, and even the common gesture of raising your glasses in a toast.
“The first mention of a wassail bowl was in the thirteenth century, a vessel in which revelers dipped cakes and fine bread. The practice of floating crisps of bread in the wassail bowl gave rise to our use of “toast” as a drinking salutation.” (source: The Colonial Williamsburg Official History Site)
Wassail (n.), is characterized by lively and noisy festivities involving drinking plentiful amounts of alcohol. Wassail even has tainted stories of ‘peasants’ roaming the wealthy streets demanding treats during Christmas.
Often associated with the Twelfth Night and Christmas Eve, ‘a mighty bowl of wassail in which the apples were hissing and bubbling” would be passed around in festivity. (source: Oxford Dictionary)
This Wassail holiday drink recipe is so simple, yet aromatic with complex flavors. As a mulled drink, the wassail extracts the essence from the juice, spirit, spice and fruit.
This wassail recipe consists of apple juice, orange and cranberry juice, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, allspice, and dark bourbon or dark rum. For a stronger drink, more alcohol can be added to taste. 🙂
This Baileys Hot Chocolate is another boozy Christmas favorite of mine! You can use other alcohol in place of the Baileys. Amaretto, rum and Kahlua are my favorites!
You can also make this wassail recipe non-alcoholic by omitting the spirits. Or try my Hot Spiced Apple Cider!
It’s easy – add all of the fruit and citrus juices, fruit and spice together to heat on high in a crockpot for an hour. To keep the alcohol from evaporating, you then add the spirits to the wassail and let it cook on low for 4-8 hours. Strain and garnish with sliced fruit and spice for the perfect holiday drink.
You can also make it on the stovetop. That’s the fastest way but I know some people prefer using a crock pot for recipes like this, so I’ve included directions for both. For more slow cooker recipes that feed a crowd (and are budget-friendly and very filling!), check out my Kid-friendly Chili and Healthy Taco Soup!
This spiked wassail conjures the smells of the past, sings praises to each new day, and sends good tidings to all in the future.
So the wassail is many things: a greeting of good health, a fertility ritual for a bountiful harvest, the tradition of caroling, a spiced Christmas drink and merriment, wassailing all around.
It’s fascinating, the wealth of information compiled into one strange word that has sumptuous tales throughout the ages.
May we lift our glasses and wassail to good health for everyone. Wassail!
If you try this wassail recipe this holiday season, I’m interested in hearing the tales. 😉
Alcoholic Wassail Recipe
- 2 quarts (1900 ml) cranberry grape juice
- 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) apple juice
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) orange juice
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar optional
- 3 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- 4-5 star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 3/4 cups (415 ml) bourbon or dark rum
- optional garnish: cranberries, whole cloves or star anise, orange or apple slices
- Add all the ingredients (except the garnish) in a slow cooker and heat at high for 1 hour.
- Turn the heat to low and add the alcohol.
- Let it go for another 4-8 hours until ready to serve.
- Strain out the spices and if desired, garnish.
- Cool any leftovers before putting in the fridge. Can be kept refrigerated for 1 week.