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Wassail

The spiced alcoholic holiday drink is an alternative to egg nog

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Egg nog isn't for everyone. Maybe you're not a fan of the frothy, dairy-based holiday drink, but you still want something to help numb your brain around variously problematic relatives. There's another alcoholic holiday beverage you should try: wassail. 

Wassail is a spiced, mulled punch typically served during the holiday season, with origins that date to the Middle Ages. Recipes vary, but most include apple juice, spices like cinnamon and cloves, and booze such as rum or whiskey. The drink is served hot, which might help slow down the chuggers and keep folks from making spectacles of themselves under the mistletoe. 

I was first introduced to wassail a few years ago, during a Christmas party hosted by my friends Sean and Audrey Tierney. Audrey, who says she "grew up on wassail," uses her grandmother's recipe. 

"When you have it simmering," she says, "the whole house just smells like Christmas."

Tierney was kind enough to share her grandmother's wassail recipe, though adventurous cooks can experiment with other juices and seasonings.

  • 2 quarts apple juice
  • 1 pint cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced

Put the allspice and cloves into a cheesecloth bag (or similar piece of plain fabric) and tie with a string. Then place all of the ingredients into a slow cooker or a covered sauce pan, and simmer for at least six hours. Before serving, add a shot of rum or whiskey.

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