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I struggled to find a wassail recipe that really appealed to me, so naturally, I made one up. The resulting beverage is cider perfected. It tastes of autumn, crisp winds, and the Wolfswood. The alcohol combination manages to disappear completely into the cider (danger! danger!), although the ale gives just the slightest fizz. It starts out subtle, then builds almost instantly to a spiced cider explosion.

I’ve heard of adding tea to wassail, and look forward to experimenting with that, but in the meantime, this is a new winter staple at The Inn.

Wassail Recipe

Warming: 30 minutes          Serves: ~10

Cook’s Notes: The ale we used comes as part of a tasty Smuttynose 12 pack; the Star Island Single is not a popular beer in our house, so is perfect to mix into something else. If you like, you can double the level of alcohol, and not compromise the wonderful way the flavors all meld together. 

Also, for an interesting varietal, try filling a tea-strainer ball with thyme, and swirl it in each mug. This produces a slightly more medicinal flavor, but in a very good way.


  • 1 gallon raw apple cider (not hard)
  • 1 bottle ale (clovey, spiced ales are best- we used Smuttynose Star Island Single)
  • 1.5 cups dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 shots whiskey
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 apple, cut into rounds

Combine all ingredients, float the apple slices in it, and warm gently, keeping below a simmer for around 30 minutes. When it’s steaming, it’s ready to serve. 

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19 Responses to Wassail

  1. Chris says:

    Look lovely, but just one question;
    is the cider suppposed to be “real” hard cider – like Strongbow or similar bitter/sour, or one of the sweet types?

  2. Charlie says:

    Glad to see you back!

    Wishing you both a New Year filled with blessings!


  3. A_Boleyn says:

    Sounds like it would pack a punch while warming you up. :) Congratulations on another winner.

  4. Tom says:

    Mmmmmm. I think i’ll try a nip of this with my homemade hard cider as a substitute. Sounds wonderful!

  5. shleayp says:

    I didn’t know where else to say this, but I heard a friend of yours was sick. Just so you know, some of us posters at TOTH wish him love and light, and are keeping him in our prayers.

  6. koipondsushi says:

    Another variation could use Barenfang or as it’s known in America, Barenjager. It’s a honey liquor that is hot apple cider’s best friend.

  7. Shobbs says:

    DELICIOUS! We doubled the alcohol, still can’t taste it… Sure can feel it though.

  8. Nicole says:

    This sounds divine! I love mulled cider and this sounds like a more complex (in flavor) version of that; I’ll definitely be making this soon. I continue to be impressed and inspired by your creativity. Looking forward to your cookbook (and of course season 2 of Game of Thrones) in 2012.

  9. sadie says:

    Just out of curiosity, how many people would this recipe serve? I’d like to try this for a get together that’s happening soon, but dunno if this is enough or too much…

    • Needs Mead says:

      You know, I’m not quite sure. It does make a lot, so I’d say that 10 people could each have a mug or two. As a previous commenter posted (and yes, we’ve verified), the alcohol is still pretty much hidden even if you double it.

      However, in the spirit of accuracy, we’ll try to make a batch of this soon, and get a better figure for you. ;)

  10. Robert G says:

    Tried it this Xmas and it was fantastic. A bit dangerous perhaps as it doesn’t taste like anything more than hot apple cider.

  11. SavI says:

    Wait though, Wassail traditionally also used well beaten, frothy eggs, typically a raw egg foam

  12. Lizzie says:

    What brands of liquor would you recommend {whiskey specifically}

    • Chelsea M-C says:

      I’d suggest something decent but inexpensive; it doesn’t have to be great, because it’s mixed with so many other ingredients. I can’t offer anything specific, as I usually just use whatever we’ve got in the house! :)

  13. ajaqz says:

    I have (on previous occasions) quadrupled the alcohol content and at that point could taste it a little. It’s powerful and wonderful stuff!

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