alissa and ryandrinksentertainingFood & Drinkrecipes

behind the bar: wassail punch

by Grace Bonney

During Thanksgiving we were able to shut down HORNE for a few days and head up north to Kennebunkport, ME where we meet up with Alissa’s family. We stay at the most adorable inn right on the water and our Thanksgiving-Day tradition consists of a picnic-lunch served in front of our fireplace while we watch the Westminster Dog Show (the girls out-number the guys so no football at our Thanksgiving).

On our way back to Philadelphia, we stopped off in Portland, ME and spent a couple of days with our sister, Jillian, and her boyfriend, Paul. As we unpacked their Christmas decorations, we indulged in a traditional Christmas drink steeped in a history of caroling, the holidays and the apple harvest. It is the perfect drink to share with family and friends as you trim your tree or sit down to share a Holiday feast. Oh, and a special “Thank You” to Paul for making the drink and to Jillian for letting us use her home. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

CLICK HERE for the full drink recipe after the jump!


Wassail Ingredients (Serves 15-20):
10 very small apples
1 large orange stuck with whole cloves
10 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bottles dry sherry or dry Madeira
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups castor sugar
12 to 20 pints of cider according to the number of guests
1 cup (or heck, make it two) brandy


Preheat oven to 350°.

Core apples and fill each with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Place in a baking pan and cover bottom with 1/8-inch of water.

Insert cloves into the orange about 1/2-inch apart. Put orange in baking pan with apples.

Bake apples and orange for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Puncture orange in several places with fork or an ice pick.

In a heavy saucepan combine sherry or Madeira, cider, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, sugar, apples, orange, juice from bottom of baking pan and heat slowly without letting the mixture come to a boil.

Once completely heated, leave on very low heat until ready to serve.

Strain the mixture into metal punch bowl, add brandy and float the apples and orange on top. Ladle hot into punch cups and enjoy!


Alissa & Ryan

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  • This looks fabulous. My boyfriend cooks for my family in lieu of gifts since he’s been unemployed/student going on our 3rd Christmas together. One year he did a New England clam chowder from scratch, another year gumbo, this year it would nice to do a festive drink! We all need one this year…

  • Lovely pics! This looks delish.

    For anyone who is thinking of making this, the castor sugar (which is not readily available in the U.S.) is totally unnecessary. Use regular white sugar instead and you’ll be fine.

    Castor sugar is just white sugar that has been ground very finely (but not quite fine enough as powdered sugar).

    Castor sugar dissolves easily. So it makes sense to use castor to sweeten a cold drink. However, since this drink is being heated, regular sugar is fine.

    You can make your own castor sugar by placing regular white sugar in a food processor. Just process for a minute or so until the crystals become finer.

  • Thanks CLF for the tip! I didn’t know what castor sugar was, but thought it was because I don’t bake or otherwise use recipes with sugars!

  • Thanks for the recipe – my husband and I have been looking for a good drink to serve for the holidays – this looks perfect! Our guests may not leave…

  • Gorgeous pictures, adorable couple, and the drink sounds delicious! What a festive idea for the holidays.

    Thanks for a great ‘behind the bar’ this month!

  • The show shown on Thanksgiving is not the Westminster Dog Show. Westminster is in NYC and is in February. The show you watched is the National Dog Show and I believe is in Philadelphia. Westminster is complete in that it shows all of the dogs in all groups which takes two days.

  • Mona: Oops, you are indeed right! I wrote the post and all I really know is that there were a hole bunch of dogs running back-and-forth. You think I would know the difference living in Philly and all :)

  • I loved being a part of an “episode” of behind the bar and enjoyed seeing what goes into making it! I am not one for strong tasting drinks, so I loved the wassail. It is a tasty winter drink and is fun to make and enjoy with family and friends.

  • Looks great guys! The pictures are beautiful! Thanks for letting me help out. I grew up having wassail on Christmas Eve at my Grandparents house (sans the booze for the kids) so it was nice to recreate that recipe with you two!

    Kristy- just apple cider, not hard cider, good question though.

  • I, too, grew up having Wassail around Christmas. This recipe looks much more sophisticated. I look forward to trying some. Beautiful pictures!

  • I saved this recipe for Christmas Eve and it was so great, thank you! As an extra hint, we saved the booze-infused apples for the the next morning, and thy were delicious sliced up and warmed, served with Stollen.

  • This turned out incredibly! I wasnt to try it again with a cloved lemon as well as the orange. Thanks D*Sponge!