Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wassail Bowl

Wassail is the old time holiday tradition of pestering the nobles until one of their servants goes out and dumps some of the leftover alcohol in a bowl that a bunch of rowdies carries from door to door. These revelers, or wassailers, carry the bowl and sing and jeer at each aristocrat's house and fill the bowl with ale, sherry, spiced wines and beers and add whatever they are carrying to the swill. Then they drink it!

A basic Wassail recipe is built around a spicy brown ale, just like the "Gloucestershire Wassails Song" says. The bowl is wooden "of the white maple tree." And while you get drunk on Wassail, it is quite alright to praise maids who let the Wassailers in, and damn butlers to hell if they add something putrid to the bowl.

For my Wassail I chose Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. This is a hoppy and dry tasting brown ale for the holiday season. I am impressed that it's robust character stands out despite all the adulteration this drink goes through. When done well, Wassail has a whiff of holiday spice in the foam,  a sherry and hop burst in the center, and a sour zip of citrus.

Serve it in a bowl, and dip mugs in it to pass it around. Holiday mugs, hot drink mugs, beer mugs. Let's not be particular here.
  • 6 12-oz. bottles of brown ail (Samuel Smith's Winter Warmer Ale used)
  • 1 cup cream sherry
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
  • lemon slices
Warm sherry and 1 bottle of ale in a saucepan. Do not boil. Add sugar and spices and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the remaining 5 bottles of ale. Remove from heat and let stand for 3 hours. Pour into a (wooden) punch bowl and garnish with lemon slices. (Serves 10.)

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