Alcoholic Wassail Recipe

by Erin @ Food Doodles on December 21, 2020

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.

Holiday Wassail in cup
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.

Alcoholic Wassail
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)

3 glasses of Holiday Wassail

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)

The recipe

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!

Spiked Holiday Wassail Recipe
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. 

Holiday Wassail process shots

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

5 from 1 vote
Alcoholic wassail in glass
Alcoholic Wassail Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 hrs 15 mins

See the notes below the recipe for how to make it on the stovetop.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: christmas drink, wassail
Servings: 16 6-ounce servings
  • 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
  1. Add all the ingredients (except the garnish) in a slow cooker and heat at high for 1 hour.

  2. Turn the heat to low and add the alcohol.

  3. Let it go for another 4-8 hours until ready to serve.

  4. Strain out the spices and if desired, garnish.
  5. Cool any leftovers before putting in the fridge. Can be kept refrigerated for 1 week.
Recipe Notes

To make it on the stovetop, add all the ingredients (except the garnish) to a pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and let it cook for 15 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the alcohol. It shouldn't simmer. Let it cook another 30 minutes.

Leave a Comment

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 wilhelmina October 7, 2021 at 19:42

This is the perfect holiday drink! It is delicious and it makes the house smell AMAZING. I love that I can have a big batch ready and warm and can skip making individual cocktails!


2 katerina @ October 7, 2021 at 19:26

This was such a fantastic, delicious cocktail! Will make it again soon for Thanksgiving.


3 Trang October 7, 2021 at 19:15

This is my favorite holiday cocktail recipe! I love that I can make a big bunch for parties in the slow cooker. Bonus, it looks so pretty with all the garnishes.


4 Ramona December 28, 2020 at 15:03

I’ve been looking for a recipe for this wassail alcohol and I think I finally found the perfect one! this is the perfect beverage to get into the Christmas spirit. Thank you for sharing this recipe.


5 Kate December 27, 2020 at 19:20

Thanks for sharing this cocktail recipe. It sounds delicious and will be enjoyed by us one of the next cold evenings. I am so looking forward to it.


6 DEBBIE December 26, 2020 at 20:42

I love wassail and this was the perfect beverage to get us into the Christmas spirit . This is such an easy recipe and everyone loved it. Thanks for sharing!


7 Marisa F. Stewart December 26, 2020 at 20:39

I loved learning the history of wassail. It gives the recipe a bit more meaning. Using the crock pot is such a great idea. The wassail stays, warm, you get the wonderful aroma from the spices and it’s at a perfect temperature to drink. This is going to be perfect New Years Day.


8 Marta December 26, 2020 at 16:39

We were watching a classic Christmas movie the other day and one of the characters mentioned wassail. I made your recipe yesterday, with and without alcohol. They were both delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe.


9 Heidy M December 26, 2020 at 14:18

I made your recipe for alcoholic wassail for Christmas Eve, and it was a huge hit! I really enjoyed the flavors in this drink. Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones! I am looking forward to your next recipe!


10 Erin @ Food Doodles December 27, 2020 at 17:24

I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! That is really nice to hear. Happy holidays to you, too! Thanks for your feedback and kind words. 🙂


11 Amanda December 25, 2020 at 23:35

This was a big hit during last night’s Christmas Eve celebration! It was perfectly cozy and so simple to make. Such a great holiday cocktail!


12 Kate December 24, 2020 at 01:18

Enjoyed it with hubby. Making this again for our New Year party.


13 Erin @ Food Doodles December 26, 2020 at 09:29

I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it! Thanks for your feedback. 🙂 I hope it’ll be a hit at your party!


14 Leslie December 23, 2020 at 19:16

What an amazing recipe for the Holiday season!This is the Perfect way to warm up!


15 Shelley December 22, 2020 at 22:51

What a fun little history lesson to go along with this historic, festive drink! I’m so excited this can be made in the slow cooker (although it’s super-handy that you included stovetop directions, too) – I love using my slow cooker for things like this! Thanks bunches – and happy, happy holidays to you and your family, Erin!!


16 Anna December 22, 2020 at 11:56

We made it last night with some rum and it was out of this world! I love how fragrant and aromatic it was, and super easy to make! Perfect for the festive season and beyond!


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