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How to make a traditional Wassail (Lambs Wool) for 12th Night

Before we start here is a bit of history:

From Medieval times the term Wassail referred to a hot spiced wine for drinking healths on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Twelfth Night celebrations. It was said to have originated with the fifth-century legend of the beautiful Saxon Rowena, who toasted the health of the Brythonic King Vortigern with the words Wæs-hael(your health!). Mead was also used (and may generally have been a more common base for Wassail than the far more expensive wine). Wassail was always served from a special bowl called the Loving Cup by early monks. It was fashioned from sturdy materials, most commonly wood and more rarely pewter. The special wooden bowl, sometimes rimmed with metal and dressed with festive ribbons, was not only the serving bowl but also the drinking bowl, as it was passed from hand to hand and drunk from directly.


  • 3l ale (India pale ale is good but porter also works well)
  • 12 small apples (crab apples for the traditional recipe, but lady apples also work)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp freshly-ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 2 tsp freshly-grated ginger


Bake the apples in a hot oven until they begin to split. Divide your ale between two pots. Place about ¾ in one pot and heat this gently until warm. Place the remainder in a second pot (which must be able to hold all the liquid), add the apples, honey and spices to this and bring to the boil. Now pour the warmed ale into this and turn off the heat. Keep pouring the heated ale between the two pots until a large amount of froth has accumulated on the top (this is the Lamb’s Wool). Pour into a heated bowl and gather your guests around to drink.

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