Holiday Wassail


Wassail is the eggnog of the 17th century.

Originating in southern English, the ancient cousin of the popular rum-spiked drink was often featured as a part of the Wassailing tradition, a ceremony intended to banish evil spirits and secure a bountiful apple harvest. Wassail is derived from waes hail, an old English phrase meaning “good health.” Traditional wassail recipes called for ale, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and eggs and were topped with bread to sop us the drink. Wassail was made in a special vessel made from dense oily wood designed to retain heat and keep out moisture.

Wassailing was popular amongst royalty who had access to the ingredients required for the seasonal drink. The wealthier the aristocrat, the better the wassail and the more ornate the wassail bowl.

  • 6 small Fuji apples, cored
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 72 ounces ale
  • 750 ml Madeira
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground
  • 6 large eggs, separated

Pour the ale and Madeira into a large slow cooker. Put the cloves, allspice, and cinnamon into a small muslin bag or cheesecloth, tied with kitchen twine, and add to the slow cooker along with the ginger and nutmeg. Set the slow cooker to medium heat and bring the mixture to at least 120 degrees F. Be sure not to boil.

Add the egg whites to a medium bowl and using a hand mixer, beat until stiff peaks form. Put the egg yolks into a separate bowl and beat until lightened in color and frothy, approximately 2 minutes. Add the egg whites to the yolks and using the hand mixer, beat, just until combined. Slowly add 4 to 6 ounces of the alcohol mixture from the slow cooker to the egg mixture, beating with the hand mixer on low speed. Return this mixture to the slow cooker and whisk to combine.

Add the apples and the liquid from the baking dish to the wassail and stir to combine. Ladle into cups and serve.

Recipe, Alton Brown

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