Rum Apple Cider Wassail

Rum Apple Cider Wassail

The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 30 servings
Yield: 1 1/2 gallons
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
97 Calories
0g Fat
24g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 30
Amount per serving
Calories 97
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 10mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 9%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 20g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 77mg 383%
Calcium 32mg 2%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 204mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The word wassail comes from the salute waes hail, which was a common Medieval English greeting, and even farther back from a pre-Norman conquest Anglo-Saxon toast meaning "be in good health." From those beginnings, the term wassail was applied to a traditional, hearty drink of hot mulled fruit cider flavored with spices. The warm beverage was an essential part of the ritual of wassailing, a popular drinking and singing tradition in southern medieval England. The ceremony was meant to secure a good apple harvest in the following year by singing to the orchard trees. Later, wassailing also became known as the tradition of going door-to-door greeting neighbors with song during the winter holidays.

The earliest recorded recipes of wassail included warmed mead, an ale brewed with honey, which was then brewed with roasted crab apples. Later, the beverage became a mulled cider made with sugar and various spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Today, wassail recipes are abundant, with home cooks putting their personal twists on the traditional historical drink. Modern recipes can begin with wine, fruit juice, or mulled ale with brandy or sherry added. Fresh apples or oranges are often added to the brew. 

Our wassail recipe, which appears in the Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Kitty and Lucian Maynard, calls for easy-to-find ingredients like apple cider and cranberry juice and gets its kick from optional rum and aromatic bitters. This drink is perfect for a party, can be served like a punch, and fills the house with wonderful, spicy aromas. Fresh non-alcoholic apple cider from a local apple orchard or cider mill is best, but you can substitute with store-bought ciders available year-round as well. This rum version is sure to warm you through any cold weather but is especially popular during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

“The Rum Apple Cider Wassail is a delicious warm holiday drink. It certainly can be made without alcohol but the addition of rum makes it even more celebratory. A pot of the wassail simmering on the stove or warming in a crockpot would be just the thing for a winter holiday party.” —Joan Velush

Rum Apple Cider Wassail/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 medium oranges, plus slices for garnish

  • 20 whole cloves

  • 4 quarts apple cider

  • 2 quarts cranberry juice

  • 1 tablespoon aromatic bitters

  • 4 cinnamon sticks, more for garnish

  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries

  • 2 cups rum, optional

  • Star anise pods, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Rum Apple Cider Wassail ingredients

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  2. Stud the oranges with the cloves. Set aside.

    Stud the oranges with the cloves

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  3. In a large saucepan over low to medium-low heat, combine the apple cider, cranberry juice, bitters, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and rum, if using. Heat gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    combine the apple cider, cranberry juice, bitters, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and rum pot

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

  4. Place a cinnamon stick, a couple of star anises, an orange slice, or a combination of all of them in each mug you're serving. Pour a cup of wassail in each mug and serve.

    Rum Apple Cider Wassail in a cup

    The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

Keep Your Wassail Hot Throughout the Party

If you're hosting a large gathering, use your slow cooker to keep the beverage warm. Cook the wassail on the stove as directed by the recipe and carefully transfer it to a slow cooker set on warm. You can arrange the mugs and garnishes close to the slow cooker so each guest can serve themselves and put their favorites garnishes in their mugs.

Alternatively, set all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours. Change the setting to warm after the 2 hours. Your wassail is now ready to be served.

What Is a Pomander?

Oranges studded with cloves are also known as pomanders—from the French pomme d'ambre or "apple of amber". Originally used as a device to keep bad smells at bay or thought of as a protection-from-infection tool, pomanders are now used in cooking and home decor.

Seen everywhere during the winter holidays, pomanders are used in a variety of holiday and winter cocktails. Add them to mulled wine, or make aromatic non-alcoholic beverages with pomanders, sliced apples, water, cinnamon, and maple syrup.