‘Tis the Christmastide, ready your wassail and boots to march into the apple orchard to chase away the bad spirits. Not a holiday drinking ritual you’re familiar with? The English know it well, having celebrated the custom of wassailing — visiting the orchards and singing to the trees to wish them a good harvest the next year — since the Middle Ages.
Wassail, the drink of wassailing, is essentially mulled — hot and spiced — cider. Depending on where you are, that can be an apple juice base or hard cider as we know it here. For Whitewood Cider, mulled cider is also a holiday season favorite, now served in its new tasting room in downtown Olympia, Washington. In this recipe, the cidery uses two full bottles of a house cider and nearly a dozen spicing ingredients for a warming, welcoming punch to share this Christmas(tide).
Hunker down for the holiday weekend with the recipe for mulled cider, the hard kind.
1 1/2 liters (2 750ml bottles) of Whitewood Cider, or other comparable craft cider
1 apple, quartered and studded with whole cloves
2-3 cinnamon sticks
4-5 allspice berries
2 cardamom pods
1-2 star anise
2-inch piece vanilla bean, split
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Juice of 1/2 orange
8-10 orange zest strips
4-6 ounces choice spirit (optional, see below)
Garnish: 1/2 cup cranberries, 8-10 apple slices, 8-10 orange peels
If you want to give your mulled cider a “little boost,” Whitewood cidermaker David White suggests using apple spirits like apple brandy, Calvados or even Applejack to taste/strength. His all-time favorite? Uncle John’s apple brandy, but rum or whiskey can also be used.