Traditional recipes

Traditional Wassail recipe

Traditional Wassail recipe

  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Drink
  • Cocktails
  • Mocktails

Whether you're wassailing or just need a winter warmer, this traditional non-alcoholic punch will be enjoyed by all.

44 people made this

IngredientsServes: 32

  • 300g (11 oz) caster sugar
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 750ml (1 1/4 pints) water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) orange juice
  • 225ml (8 fl oz) lemon juice
  • 3L (5 1/8 pints) apple juice

MethodPrep:10min ›Cook:20min ›Ready in:30min

  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cloves, water and cinnamon. Bring to the boil, and continue to boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and allow to cool for 1 hour.
  2. Stir in the orange juice, lemon juice and apple juice. Return to the heat, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks before serving.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(37)

Reviews in English (32)

It was really easy and delicious!-19 Dec 2016

I learned to make this some 40 years ago when the bank my business used served it during Christmas week. Along with pumpkin bread.It's the best recipe I've ever found. Thank you for posting.-21 Sep 2012

by VLEE01

I love making this recipe during the holiday season. In mid October, my family and I pick apples and we have an apple press made in the 1800's and we press our own apples to get apple cider and we use apple cider instead of apple juice and it is very delicious!!-10 Sep 2003

Lambswool Recipe

This Lambswool, (or Lamb’s Wool) is one of the traditional drinks of the ‘Wassail’, (or Apple Howling) it is either so called after the light colour and frothy appearance of the drink on the surface, or, as Richard Cook in 1835 believes, it stems from being served at the ancient Celtic pagan festival of La mas ubal, that is, ‘The Day of the Apple Fruit’ and being pronounced lamasool, it was corrupted to Lambs Wool. The drink is made with a sweet-spiced hot ale (or cider) and roasted apples.

To fully understand the traditions of the wassail in summary we can look at Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, published in 1756, which says the ‘Wassail’ was: “a liquor made of apples, sugar, and ale a drunken bout a merry song”. Yet the word wassail derives from the much older, ‘Old English’ (Anglo-Saxon) words wæs (þu) hæl which means ‘be healthy’ or ‘be whole’ – both of which meanings survive in the modern English phrase to be, ‘hale and hearty’ – while the first written reference to wassailing dates back to a medieval 1486-93 AD record, for wassail payments made at the New Year, at St Mary De Pre Priory (in St Albans).

This traditional and authentic recipe given below is taken from a 1633 source and a poem first published in 1648 (see the end of the recipe). The poem by Robert Herrick entitled, ‘Twelfe-Night’, or ‘King and Queene’ describes several practices seen at 12th Night. Other recipes for Lambswool Wassel, or Wassail, printed around this time are also very similar – see the next page for some more original lambswool recipes and some information on the practice of wassailing. However it should be noted that this very simple Lambswool ale recipe will probably have pre-dated this time period (1600s) considerably, perhaps going back to the pagan Anglo-Saxons and Celts, with honey replacing the sugar.

LAMBS WOOL (Robert Herrick 1648)

Next crown a bowl full
With gentle lamb’s wool :
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Tasting Notes: the taste of this Lambswool differs significantly from when it is drunk out wassailing on a cold night, and ‘the blood is up’, and when it is drunk pleasantly in front of the fire with friends … suffice it to say the apple, ginger and ale gently dominate the taste of the drink, in that order.

Lambswool Recipe

Note: Depending on your area and its traditions use either ale or cider in the recipe below – however, it is thought that ale recipes are considered to be older than cider ones. And although Richard Cook in 1835 (see end of recipe) puts his sugar and spices in with the apple pulp, we will be following the earlier (traditional) advice of Herrick in 1648 among others, and put the spices in the ale to mull first and the apple pulp in later.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Litres (3 x 500ml bottles) of traditional real ale – or traditional cider
  • 6 small cooking apples, cored (Bramley apples)
  • 1 nutmeg freshly grated
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 150g brown sugar (demerara)

Ingredients For An Authentic Lambswool Wassail Drink - Use Either Real Ale Or Traditional Cider

Recipe Method:

Prepare the apples in advance: time it so they are ready when you want to put them into the lambswool to serve.

Core the 6 apples fully, getting rid of the pips. Lightly grease the baking tray. Place the apples on the baking tray about 6cm (2 inches) apart – they will swell up a little. Bake the apples at 120C for about an hour or so – so they become soft and pulpy and the skins are easy to peel away.

Coring And Baking The Apples For The Lambswool Wassail Drink

Make the Lambswool:

In a large thick bottomed saucepan (which is quite tall to avoid splashes when whisking) add the sugar. Cover the sugar in a small amount of the ale (or cider) and heat gently. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Then add in the ground ginger and grate in the whole of the nutmeg. Stir, and keeping the pan on a gentle simmer, slowly add in all the rest of the ale (or cider). Leave for 10 minutes on a gentle heat as you deal with the apples.

Spicing And Warming The Ale For The Lambswool Wassail Drink

Take the baked apples out of the oven to cool slightly for 10 minutes – they should now be soft and pulpy.

Break open the apples and scoop out the baked flesh into a bowl, discarding the skin. Then take a fork and mash this apple pulp up, while it is still warm, into a smooth purée with no lumps. Add the apple purée into the ale (or cider) lambswool, mixing it in with a whisk.

Mashing The Baked Apple Flesh For The Lambswool

Let the saucepan continue to warm everything through for thirty minutes, on a very gentle heat, until ready to drink. When warmed through use the whisk again for a couple of minutes (or use a stick blender) to briskly and vigorously froth the drink up and mix everything together. The apple and light froth will float to the surface, and depending on how much you have whisked it, the more it looks like lamb’s wool. Note: to traditionally froth drinks up they were normally poured continuously between two large serving jugs to get air into the drink.

Ladle the hot Lambswool into heat-proof mugs or glasses and grate over some nutmeg, or pour the drink into a communal bowl (with several thick pieces of toast in the bottom) to pass around if wassailing. See the next page for some more original lambswool recipes and some information on the practice of wassailing.

An Authentic Lambswool Wassail Drink - In A Communal Bowl & Traditional Pewter Mug

Traditional Wassail

Wassail is a traditional part of English Christmas celebrations, dating back to the 13th century. There are a myriad of recipes, but his more traditional recipe comes from Carla Bardi&rsquos lovely The Silver Book of Cocktails .

1 qt. brown ale
8 oz. dry sherry
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 apples
finely grated peel of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. each ground nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and core two apples and cut in thick slices. Place in layers in a baking dish and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Drizzle with 2 oz. of brown ale. Bake until the apples are very tender, about 45 minutes. Chop the apples and their cooking juices in a food processor until smooth. Place in a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the remaining ale, sherry, lemon peel and spices. Simmer gently for a few minutes. Peel and core the remaining apple and slice. Add the slices to the bowl and serve while still warm.


Wassail is a traditional holiday punch that has been served for centuries. It is a comforting drink which families would serve to carolers and other visitors during the Christmas season. The tradition of going house to house to visit like this is known as wassailing and groups often spent an entire day or evening making their rounds.

There are many recipes for wassail and each variation has been adapted through the years. The ingredients differ by using a variety of spirits and types of wine including brandy, port, rum, and sherry. Some use beer while others prefer an apple cider base. Most wassails are very tasty and which to use is left up to personal preference.

This particular recipe is most likely a very traditional one. It uses a considerable amount of dry sherry, a little brandy, and the usual holiday season spices. Egg yolks and whites are also added, which give it an eggnog-like character that's rather enjoyable in the hot punch. It makes about 15 4-ounce servings, enough for a nice holiday gathering.

Brew Recipe: Lambswool Wassail

Wassail! Whassat? We’ll tell you! From brewing genius Jereme Zimmerman, we have another out-of-the-barrel brew for you to try at home. Especially on those colder nights.

This recipe is an excerpt from Brew Beer Like a Yeti by Jereme Zimmerman and has been adapted for the web.

Winter festivities were always a good excuse to drink ale, both for warmth and to pass the time with food, friends, and family while the land was hard with frost. One festive health-drinking tradition that is still alive in some communities today is the wassail. A wassail (stemming from the Old Norse ves heill, or “be healthy”) is an activity, toast, drink, and the drink’s receptacle all in one. On New Year’s Day (although sometimes during the time between Yule and New Year’s Day) revelers would go through the village and enter their friends’ houses unannounced, bearing a wassail-bowl of spiced ale—singing carols and presenting wishes or a year of good health by exuberantly exclaiming wassail! as the bowl was held up, drunk from, and passed along. It was then expected that each household contribute to the festivities by adding its own brew to the bowl and then joining the throng as it moved on to the next house. There are many, many wassail songs celebrating all of the aspects of life for which good health and cheer are offered.

A pot of wassail. Photo by Jereme Zimmerman

Nearly every household had its own wassail recipe, which could vary quite a bit. In general, the drink was warm and spiced with exotic flavorings. It could range from a mulled wine, to a mulled mead, to a spiced ale or cider, to any combination of these. Often it was a bragot (a spiced honey ale—see chapter 9), although the bragot wasn’t always made with fermented honey, or even spiced at brewing. Sometimes the honey and spices were added later, after the ale was warmed. The wassail-bowl didn’t always consist of liquid nourishment only a version known as lambswool was made by sprinkling apples with sugar, grated nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and other spices, then roasting them until soft. The skins were removed from the apples, warmed ale was poured over them, and everything was blended into a puree. The bowl was then served while still warm, often with spiced sweet cakes or toast floating on it. I have come across claims that to offer a drink as a “toast” came from this tradition but have been unable to verify it. Still, it’s a worthy concept to consider.


6 apples
1 teaspoon each freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, or any other spices that suit your fancy
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) organic cane sugar or brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) water (or substitute hard cider, ginger beer, red wine, Madeira, port, mead, or what-have-you)
1 small lemon or orange
4 pints low-to-no-hopped ale, preferably British-style ale, spiced dark ale, or bragot
Dark rum, brandy, or other spirits (optional)

Core the apples almost all the way through. Leave a little apple at the bottom--you're trying to make a little apple pouch.

Fill each apple with a tablespoon of sugar and place them on buttered baking sheet.

Press cloves into 2 oranges and place oranges on baking sheet.

Bake oranges and apples for 45 minutes.

Pour cider and brandy into a thick-bottomed stock pot and warm over low heat. Whisk in ginger and nutmeg. DO NOT BRING TO BOIL.

Add cinnamon sticks and allspice berries. (Note: do not use ground spices.)

Beat egg yolks until they turn a lemony-yellow color. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Fold egg yolks into egg whites & then pour a cup of the cider/brandy mixture into the eggs in a steady stream.

Pour the egg mixture into the cider and brandy mixture. Transfer the new mixture into a punch bowl and add apples and oranges.


If you don&rsquot want to keep an eye on the stove for a couple of hours while the Wassail mulls, you could absolutely make this in a slow cooker.

Just add everything to a large slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. If your Crockpot has a &ldquowarm&rdquo setting, you can even use that for serving so it stays nice and warm all evening long.

Homemade Wassail Ingredients

The apple cider, orange juice, and lemon juice naturally provides the perfect amount of sweetness and tartness without any refined sugar. What a relief from all the sugar-laden holiday treats, and the spices provide additional anti-inflammatory benefits.

    is one of the oldest spices in the world. It helps control blood sugar and reduce inflammation (source). help to soothe the gut and contain antioxidants (source). is one of the best substances to improve digestion, and is also great to ward off colds and flu (source). is rich in minerals and even has brain-protective properties (source).

Slow Cooker Spiked Wassail

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Wassail was traditionally a hot drink made of ale, sherry, sugar, and spices, with pieces of toast and roasted apples floating in it. It is the legendary drink served on the Feast of the Three Kings with an oversized, decorated sweet yeast bread. The word wassail is derived from the Anglo-Saxon toast waes haeil, or “be whole.” On Christmas or Twelfth Night, revelers would carry a large bowl from door to door, asking for it to be filled, a custom known as wassailing. There are now many versions of wassail, and the palate for hot strong beer is limited, so it has evolved into a spiked juice toddy. The antique French Api apple was probably the apple of choice of the day. It is now called a Lady apple look for it at Christmas, but any apple will do.

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