Thursday 19 December 2013

Day 7 — Red Hot Christmas Punch and Christmas Wassail

You really can't have Christmas without drinks, and for today's seventh instalment of my 'Twelve Days of Christmas' recipe series I have a modern update of a true classic drink and a modern drink for children that can be spiced up with alcohol for adults.

The first drink presented here, Red Hot Christmas Punch, is a classic non-alcoholic punch recipe for Christmas that goes down well with both adults and children. This is also great if you want a non-alcoholic alternative for a New Year party.

The next drink, wassail, is a true historic classic. It's first recorded in Anglo Saxon times rose to popularity in Medieval times, is mentioned by Shakespeare and was still commonplace in Dickens' Victorian London. This is the apple and cider based drink, wassail.

Here you can find a link to all the Christmas and the remaining Twelve Days of Christmas recipes published on this blog... a true treasure-trove of seasonal dishes.

Red Hot Christmas Punch

Serves: 8
Red Hot Christmas Punch: A classic non-alcoholic Christmas punch made with mixed fruit juice and red hot candies cooked in a crockpot


900ml (3 1/2 cups) cranberry juice
900ml (3 1/2 cups) pineapple juice
1 cinnamon stick
4 allspice berries


Combine the fruit juices, red-hot candies, allspice berries and cinnamon in a crockpot (slow cooker). Cover and cook on LOW for between 3 and 5 hours.

Remove the cinnamon stick and allspice berries (easier if the berries are tied in a cloth first).

Ladle into warmed glasses or cups (Irish coffee glasses are ideal), garnish with a cinnamon stick as a server and serve immediately.

Winter Wassail

Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon toast 'waes hael': literally, 'be whole', but actually meaning something more like 'your health'. The first carols were Yuletide drinking songs and singers carolled their neighbourhoods carrying their wassail bowls with them.

Traditionally it was made from cider and had small, sour apples, in the mix. This version can be made either alcoholic or non alcoholic and it works just as well either way.

Serves: 14
Winter Wassail: A classic Christmas alcoholic drink made with cider and gin served warm in a glass, with instructions for a non-alcoholic version


4.5l cider (or fresh apple juice for a non-alcoholic version)
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 tbsp allspice berries
4 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
4 blades of mace
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 nutmeg, halved
1/4 tsp sea salt
200g dark brown sugar
500ml (1 pint) gin or vodka (omit for a non-alcoholic version)
2 lemons, thinly sliced (remove the pips)
3 oranges, sliced thinly (remove the pips)
2 limes, sliced thinly


Combine the cider and the spices in a large pot. Season with the salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes to allow the spice flavours to infuse.

Take off the stove and sweeten to taste with sugar. Set aside to cool completely. Once cold, strain through a fine-meshed sieve lined with a layer of muslin (cheesecloth).

Set aside in a cool place until ready (you do not need to refrigerate). 

To serve, heat the wassail in a bain-marie (double boiler) over a large pot of boiling water. Add the citrus slices and continue heating until warm.

Add the gin or vodka (if using) and allow to warm up again (but do not over heat). Turn into a wassail bowl (a soup tureen, large china bowl or punch bowl work well).

Serve ladled into small punch glasses. If desired you can float chunks of tart apple in the wassail, to give it an effect similar to the original drink.

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