Centuries old story of Wassail: King Vortigern and a woman named Renwein met at a party in the fifth century, during which she presented him the drink in a golden goblet and exclaimed: “Was hál!” He then kissed her and drank from the same cup, thus defining the wassail tradition of shared drink for centuries.
Wassail takes its name from the Old English phrase hál, meaning “to be in good health,” and it refers to spiced cider or mead, generally taken from a shared glass or bowl.
Starting in the Middle Ages, wassailers would go house to house during the holidays offering drink, sometimes in hopes of payment or an exchange of gifts. Contemporary wassailing generally just revolves around a shared punch bowl at a party, but the steamy drink itself lives on. Make your own by mulling apple cider, orange and lemon juices, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.
5-6 apples, cored (preferably crisp, sweet apples like Fuji or honey crisp)
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups hard cider, crisp and not too sweet
3 cups ale
2 cups sherry, (preferably oloroso)
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
2 cloves, whole
4 allspice berries, whole
Garnish: apple slice and a cinnamon stick
Put apples in a baking dish, and spoon brown sugar into the core of each. Add 1/4 inch water to the bottom of the dish, and place in the oven until softened, about 45 minutes.
In a large sauce pot, add cider, ale and sherry. Place over low heat, and do not boil.
In a square of cheesecloth, add cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice. Tie securely and drop into the warming pot with nutmeg and ginger.let mixture simmer for 30 minutes.