Tasty Homemade Wassail Recipe For The Holidays

cranberry wassail


My wassail recipe is one of my favorite holiday beverages. Not only does it taste great, it makes your house smell fabulous as it’s simmering away on the stove. My recipe for cranberry wassail is one that everyone in my family really loves and differs a bit from other wassail recipes. I like to mix a few different kinds of fruit juice – cranberry, apple, orange, lemon and grape. This version is non-alcoholic, but you could certainly add some liqueur or wine for a warm, boozy adult beverage. The other great thing? It’s also really good chilled. I’ve served this recipe with our Christmas morning brunch for years and it’s always a hit.

cranberry wassail-2


ingredients for wassail

Here’s what you need for this recipe: orange juice, cranberry-apple juice, one orange, fresh lemon juice, a spice packet (see below), fresh sliced ginger (not pictured) and white grape juice (below), and cane sugar (optional, not pictured.)

white grape juice for wassail

The spice packet is the most important part of the wassail recipe. I place whole spices into a few layers of cheesecloth and tie it with twine.  You don’t have to do this, but it makes it easier to remove the spices when it’s time to serve the wassail. I like to add a vanilla bean, which isn’t a typical mulling spice, because it has a nice, mellow flavor. Use whatever spices you like. I’ve added star anise before, too.

whole spices for wassail tied spice packet for wassail

Then I tie it onto the handle of my pot. Again, you don’t have to do that, but I do because it’s easy to pull out before serving. Adjust the length so it rests below the liquid line in the pan.

tie spice packet for wassail

All of the juices and other ingredients go into the stockpot. It’s really important to use a non-reactive pot like enameled cast-iron or stainless steel. If it’s a coated aluminum pan, that’s fine too. Otherwise the acid in the juices will react and possibly damage the pan, not to mention the flavor of the wassail. Put a lid on top and place on the stove to simmer for at least 30 minutes, but an hour is even better.

wassail ingredients in stock pot

This is what it looks like when it’s been simmering for a good long time. It’s important to simmer with the lid on so that the liquid doesn’t evaporate.

wassail ingredients in stock pot after steeping

Before I remove the spice packet, I press it against the side of the pan to squeeze out the absorbed juices. Or it’s easy enough to navigate around if you’re serving directly from the pot. You can remove the ginger and orange slices, or leave them in there too. If you choose to leave them in, know that they will still keep infusing the juices with flavor. If you don’t want a strong, spicy flavor, then remove them. Otherwise I think it just gets better the longer it sits.

And that’s it! It’s easy and totally something you can throw together right before your holiday party. Put it on the stove to simmer while you go put on your makeup. You’re home will smell fantastic as your guest arrive.

Tasty Homemade Wassail Recipe For The Holidays

Note – the flavor of this wassail is very concentrated. Adding sugar helps take off any acidic edge, but might also require adding a little water to dilute it if it’s too strong. I usually leave it out because the juices are fairly sweet on their own. It’s personal preference, so I’ve listed it as an optional ingredient. Also, feel free to add or substitute wine or liqueur for some of the juice. I make my non-alcoholic so that it’s designated driver and kid-friendly.

Recipe Ingredients

  • one 64 ounce (8 cups) 100 % cranberry-apple juice cocktail
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups grape juice (can use wine)
  • 8-10 thin sliced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice (optional
  • 1 large orange, cut into thin slices
  • a few cinnamon sticks
  • 12-15 whole cloves
  • 12-15 allspice berries
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • Equipment needed: twine, cheesecloth, stainless steel stockpot with a lid


  1. Pour all of the juices into a large stainless steel (or other non-reactive) stockpot. Add the sugar, if using, and stir to dissolve.
  2. Place the spices in a piece of cheesecloth and secure with twine. Tie to the handle of the stockpot and submerge in the juices.
  3. Add the orange and ginger slices. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 or more minutes with the lid on.
  4. Taste the wassail and see if the juice has been infused with the spices.
  5. Ladle into mugs or glasses and serve warm or hot.

Leftover wassail should be kept refrigerated. It’s really good chilled mixed half and half with sparkling water, on its own, or warmed back up.

Recipe yields about 12 servings.

cranberry wassail


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Lindsey Johnson

Lindsey Johnson can usually be found in one of three places--the kitchen (cooking and washing dishes), behind her camera, or at her laptop editing photos and writing. If she's not in any of those places, chances are she's chasing after her three crazy kids or scoring a great find at the thrift store. She writes the food blog, Cafe Johnsonia and lives near the beautiful mountains in Utah with the aforementioned three crazy kids and one great husband.

1 Comment

  1. jenny :

    YUMMO! I haven’t ever used cranberry or grape juice in my wassail, just the orange/apple/pineapple/lemon juice kind. Am VERY excited to love a second kind of wassail.