Cross posted from the Mixoloseum Blog.
Wassailing, now known mostly as that strange word in that one Christmas song, was once a holiday tradition so filled with mildly hidden threat, the Victorians banned the festivities. Laborers, ne’er do wells, and whoever else happened to be in the vicinity would drop by the boss’ or governor’s manse, wishing joy and peace in trade for a bit of tipple. Of course, in the lack of tipple, there could also be a lack of joy an peace, if you get my drift. A bit of the Trick or Treat, just more wintry. For more information on the history of the tradition, check out Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas.
Of course, what could be a better pick me up during a night of drunken revelry on a winter night than a warm bath of mulled ale or cider, known then (as now) as Wassail.
In my research on this tasty winter beverage, I found two clearly distinct lines of Wassail. One, such as exampled in my copy of Joy of Cooking (1963), and another at Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Wassail post. This Wassail omits the Ale or Cider, and instead hefts up the Brandy, and adds a whole lot of egg. This seems more in the tradition of an Egg Nog or Tom and Jerry, with a big foamy dope hefting the liquid about. I’ll admit to not having yet made it, as I’m far too fond of the more traditional method, which is that of a warm mulled ale or cider.
Here’s the recipe I used at a recent holiday feast. The original recipe comes from Stanley Clisby Arthur’s Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Em. For a bit of a traditional twi, I added hard cider, to apple things up a bit, and increased the proportions to satisfy all guests as well as fill the crockpot. It went over smashingly (by jove!), and I think you’ll like it too.
’tis the Season to have a crockpot, for sure.
- 3 Baked Apples
- 1/2 cup fine sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground Allspice
- 1 Tbsp whole Allspice Berries
- 1 lemon, juice and peel
- 1 Liter Hard Cider
- 1.5 Liter Brown or Winter Ale
- 1 pint warm sherry
Spiral slice the apples (or however you can maximize surface area), coat lightly in brown sugar, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes until browning begins. Place apples in a crockpot with all other ingredients, and set the crockpot to Hot for about 30 minutes. Leave the Crockpot on warm to serve. Serve in warmed punch mugs. Makes about 3.5 Quarts
This drink warms to the toes, and fills your brain with just enough bubbles to start tossing out the holiday cheer left and right. The first batch I’d tried, the apples weren’t imparting enough flavor for me, hence the addition of cider. The Cider used was Blackthorn (cheap and good!) and the beer was Pyramid’s Snowcap, a nice full-bodied, mildly spiced winter warmer.
Got your own holiday classic crockpot drink? Post your favorite in the comments!
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