A Wassail

serves 20

2 six packs nonalcoholic beer (144 oz)
3 liters white wine
1 grated nutmeg
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 apples, (in lieu of crab apples)

Special equipment

one large wassail bowl and ladle


Bake the apples lightly in a medium oven. Bake them too long, and they'll turn into a mush ‐ a delicious mush, but still mush.

Mix the remaining ingredients in your serving bowl. Float the apples. Serve.


One of the customs associated with Twelfth Night was the tradition of throwing a party for neighbors and relatives and toasting the New Year with a brew sometimes called lamb's wool, a mixture of beer or ale, spices, sugar, and toasted apples. In some areas, Twelfth Night was even called Wassail Eve. Wassail comes from the Norse ves heill ‘be hale.’

When Puck talks about appearing as a roasted crab in Midsummer's Night Dream Act II, Scene 1, he's talking about the roasted crab apples floating in a wassail bowl:

And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.


We started with a recipe of Clibbon's, but this is still very much “under construction.” All the measurements are approximate. The first time we made it, it desperately needed sweetening and more spices. Be forewarned: the proportions still need some work.

You could always float a few slices of toast with the apples. This, the most prized part of the beverage, is the origin of the phrase drinking a toast.

First served: Imbolc 1995
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Last modified: © February 1995