Wassail: The Holiday Punch That's More Than A Carol

Rooted in tradition and frothing with spiced holiday goodness, wassail is a classic mulled hot drink that has been enjoyed throughout history — far before Trader Joe's came out with winter wassail punch. You know it's old because it appeared in the 8th century poem "Beowulf," though as a phrase used to toast to the good health of warriors rather than a means of quenching their thirst (via Tales of the Cocktail). "Good health" is actually what the word wassail means, derived from the Anglo-Saxon expression "waes hael." You may recognize it from the old Christmas carol that goes:

"Here we come a-wassailing

Among the leaves so green;

Here we come a-wand'ring

So fair to be seen."

Wassailing refers to an old custom that predates the spread of Christianity, where carolers would go door to door with a bowl of wassail, cheerily singing to all their neighbors while wishing them good health in the new year. This act of merry-making would score carolers free food in the process, gifted by the lord of the house for bestowing their blessings upon him. Another form of this tradition is more ceremonious and still takes place in some parts of England today. Gathering in orchards, wassailers give blessings to the trees so they might provide them with a bountiful harvest for the perfect cider, per British Food: A History.

Even if you don't go "a-wassailing" during the holidays, you can still enjoy the flavorful magic of your own batch of wassail.

What are the ingredients needed to make wassail?

If you look forward to apple cider season every year and haven't tried wassail yet, you're missing out! Picture all the deliciousness of an apple cider, except that tangy-yet-sweet flavor is amplified by a variety of other fruit juices and spices. Don't forget that wassail is also warmed up, so it's one of the merriest holiday drinks for staying cozy in the winter. It's synonymous with mulled cider, and you can feel free to add spirits into the mix in case you're feeling extra festive.

The original wassail was boozy and creamy thanks to "mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar," according to Why Christmas. You'll find that modern wassail recipes are a bit more simplified, and there isn't one exact way to make it. The apples, of course, are the star of the show, followed by orange juice, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Some wassail instructions substitute the apples entirely for apple juice or cider, also adding other spices like brown sugar and allspice.

Experiment with the flavors and let your creativity turn your wassail into an aromatic cup of heaven during the holidays. Wassail is more than just a carol. It's a beloved tradition firmly grounded in spreading that good ol' Christmas cheer as you bask in the spirit of the season with your loved ones. Remember to toast to their good health! Maybe demand a figgy pudding too, and don't go until you get some.