This traditional recipe for Wassail is made with spiced apple cider that’s been infused with baking spices and fresh citrus. It’s the perfect warm and cozy holiday drink to make during the winter months.
Traditional Recipe for Wassail
The smell of hot Wassail gently simmering is, hands down, one of the best parts of the cool winter months. Luckily, in order to get the best flavor, you’ll need to cook the Wassail low and slow for a number of hours. This traditional Wassail recipe is made with apple juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, and lemon juice that are slowly simmered with deliciously fragrant spices like cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and star anise.
Since our Wassail drink recipe is alcohol-free, family and friends of all ages can look forward to it every single year. But, if you want to spike it, I recommend using your favorite bourbon or whiskey.
What is Wassail?
Wassail is a traditional English hot mulled punch that is typically made during the winter months and around Yuletide. Modern day Wassail is typically made with apple juice or apple cider, another juice such as orange juice, pineapple juice, or cranberry juice, and baking spices. Sliced citrus and/or apple slices are added to the liquid, and it is then simmered for many hours to allow the flavors to infuse. It’s meant to be served warm, with or without alcohol.
- Apple Juice - you can use any kind of apple juice or apple cider for this Wassail drink.
- Orange Juice - use either store bought or fresh squeezed orange juice.
- Pineapple Juice - this adds a little extra sweetness and flavor. A great substitute would be cranberry juice, or extra orange and apple juice.
- Lemon Juice - this balances out the sweetness and flavors really nicely.
- Sugar - our Wassail recipe calls for granulated sugar, but brown sugar would also be great.
- Cinnamon Sticks - the flavor of slowly simmered cinnamon sticks truly can’t be beat. But, if you don’t have any whole cinnamon sticks, mix in about 1 ½ tablespoons of ground cinnamon.
- Whole Cloves - simmering whole cloves adds a lot of flavor, but it doesn’t overpower the drink. If you want to substitute ground cloves, add about ¼ teaspoon.
- Star Anise - it only takes 2 whole star anise to add flavor to this entire batch of Wassail. You don’t want to go crazy with the flavor, but it’s so festive and delicious.
- Oranges and Lemons - to prepare, wash the rinds in water then slice them whole into ⅓"-½” slices.
How to Make Wassail
Slow Cooker Wassail Recipe
- Add ingredients to the slow cooker. In a slow cooker, add the apple juice (or apple cider), orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and star anise. Mix together, then add the sliced oranges and lemons.
- Cook. Cover, then cook on low for 5-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours until hot and very fragrant.
- Strain. Strain through a piece of cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, then return to the slow cooker.
- Serve. Serve warm. Enjoy!
Stovetop Wassail Recipe
- Add ingredients to a large pot. In a large pot, add the apple juice (or apple cider), orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and star anise. Mix together, then add the sliced oranges and lemons.
- Bring to a simmer. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer over medium low heat and continue to simmer with the lid slightly ajar for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.
- Strain. Strain through a piece of cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, then return to the pot.
- Serve. Serve warm. Enjoy!
Recipe Variations for Wassail
Here are a few simple variations for this traditional Wassail Drink that will keep things exciting.
- Gingerbread Wassail: Infuse your wassail with gingerbread flavor by adding molasses, ginger, and a pinch of cloves. It's like sipping on gingerbread cookies in liquid form.
- Wassail with Alcohol: For an adults-only version, add a splash of dark rum, bourbon, or brandy.
- Pineapple Wassail: Substitute some of the apple cider with pineapple juice for a tropical twist. Add a garnish of fresh pineapple slices for a breezy feel.
- Chai Wassail: Brew a strong chai tea and mix it with apple cider to create a spiced chai wassail.
- Maple Wassail: Sweeten your wassail with real maple syrup, giving it a rich, earthy sweetness. It's perfect for a cozy winter evening.
Frequently Asked Questions
This Wassail drink recipe does not contain any alcohol. However, if you want to make this Wassail recipe with alcohol, we recommend adding 1 ounce of your favorite bourbon or whiskey to a mug, then filling with warm Wassail. Stir with a cinnamon stick and serve.
While mulled cider and Wassail are essentially both warm spiced apple cider drinks, the main difference is that Wassail is usually made with another juice while mulled cider is typically made with only apple cider.
You can keep leftover Wassail in the fridge for up to 1 week. Just make sure you don’t put a large pot of hot Wassail into your refrigerator! Allow it to cool completely first, then store in an airtight container.
The reason that you need to cook Wassail for so long is to allow it time for all of the spices and flavors to mix and mingle. In short, the longer that you cook your Wassail, the more flavorful it will be. We recommend cooking over the stovetop for at least 1 hour, but preferably up to 6. Or, you can cook in a slow cooker on low for 5-8 hours.
You can, although since Wassail really should cook for a long time in order for the flavors to infuse, we recommend either using a crock pot or the stovetop. However, if you want to try making Wassail in an instant pot, simply add the liquid ingredients to the pressure cooker pot and the rest to the basket. Secure the lid, seal, and cook at high pressure for about 10 minutes. Use the natural release, then carefully open the lid and serve warm.
Storing and Reheating
- Refrigerator: store cooled Wassail in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- To reheat: transfer Wassail to a large pot and reheat over medium until warmed through. You could also add a single serving to a mug and reheat in a microwave on high for about 2 minutes, stirring in between.
Traditional Wassail Recipe
- 3 quarts Apple Juice or Apple Cider
- 3 cups Orange Juice
- 2 cups Pineapple Juice
- ½ cup Lemon Juice
- ½ cup Sugar
- 4 large Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 teaspoon Whole Cloves
- 2 large Star Anise
- 2 small Oranges sliced
- 2 small Lemons sliced
- In a slow cooker, add the apple juice (or apple cider), orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and star anise. Mix together, then add the sliced oranges and lemons.
- Cover, then cook on low for 5-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours until hot and very fragrant. Strain through a piece of cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, then return to the slow cooker.
- Serve warm. Enjoy!
More Easy Holiday Drink Recipes
- Holiday Punch
- Caramel Apple Punch
- Brunch Punch
- Tropical Breakfast Punch
- Crockpot White Hot Chocolate
- Crockpot Hot Chocolate
- Nutella Hot Chocolate
- More Drink Recipes
- More Winter Recipes
If you’ve tried this recipe, please rate it and leave a comment on this post. I love hearing feedback from you. It helps other readers and me too! If you love Pinterest, feel free to leave a comment and photo there too. Also, if you like to share, use the hashtag #thecarefreekitchen on Instagram and tag me @thecarefreekitchen so I can find you and give your post some love. You can also find me on Facebook at The Carefree Kitchen. Thank you!!
This Wassail recipe is easy, delicious, and permeates the entire house with the most amazing smell. It's the perfect warm spiced apple cider drink to make during the winter holiday season.