My mother-in-law introduced me to wassail – a blend of citrus and apple juices infused with homey spices like cinnamon and clove. It’s like a grown-up version of hot apple cider. And it makes the whole house smell like Christmas as it simmers (it helps that there’s a full tablespoon of allspice in the mix!).
There are several different versions of wassail – most start with boiling spices and then adding in fruit juices. But I’ve run across some that use buttermilk and even others with a generous helping of alcohol. The recipe seems to date back to the medieval times, so it’s no wonder you can find lists (and lists!) of recipes on Google. Even the word “wassail” is thought to be a combination of “was hail” a greeting (or goodbye) that folks used at that time in what’s now England.
And wassail isn’t just a drink. If you’ve ever heard the song “Here We Come A-wassailing” around the holidays, you probably already familiar with the idea of “wassailing” as caroling. I even ran across old invitations of people who were hosting “wassailing parties.” From what I gathered, the host invited guests to go Christmas caroling and then come back to the house for – you guessed it – wassail and baked goodies.
We’ve been talking about going caroling this year with friends; maybe this time, instead of serving hot chocolate to our guests to warm them up afterwards, we’ll offer wassail instead.