Wassail

Brandy and sherry in a traditional holiday Wassail.
Helene Toresdotter/Nordic Photos/Getty Images
  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 15 drinks (15 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
132 Calories
1g Fat
21g Carbs
4g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 15 drinks (15 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 132
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 52mg 17%
Sodium 50mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Protein 4g
Calcium 23mg 2%
*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.)

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.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger (ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 5–6 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 750ml bottles dry sherry
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • Garnish: apple slices

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a saucepan, combine the water and spices. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, without allowing it to reach a boil. Stir occasionally.

  3. Add the sherry and sugar and continue to heat and stir for a few minutes, ensuring the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from the heat.

  4. In small bowl, beat the egg yolks. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl.

  5. Stir the warm sherry mix and egg yolks together in a heat resistant punch bowl or wassail bowl.

  6. Add the brandy.

  7. Whisk in the egg whites until foamy.

  8. Garnish the punch bowl with apple or other fruit slices.

  9. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Variation

Another popular rendition of wassail features beer and rum. It may not be quite as traditional as the sherry and brandy mix, but it is still an old recipe that's quite delicious. It makes about 17 4-ounce servings.

  • To make it, pour 3 12-ounce bottles of lager, 5 ounces of simple syrup, 3 ounces of lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon each of grated nutmeg and ginger into a large saucepan. Warm on low heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let it boil. Add 1 750ml bottle of rum and stir. Place slices of fruit (e.g., apple, lemon, orange) in a heat resistant punch bowl or wassail bowl. Pour the warm liquid into the prepared bowl and serve in punch cups.

How Strong Is Wassail?

Looking at these two versions of wassail, you might expect that the one made with a full bottle of rum would be stronger than the two-bottle sherry recipe. However, both recipes have an average alcohol content of 17 percent ABV (34 proof). That is a little strong for a punch, but it's not too potent, either. It's actually just a little stronger than the average glass of wine.