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Wassail–Memoir and Recipe

December 8, 2022

WORDWALK HOLIDAY NOTE:  At a meeting I attended yesterday, the topic of Wassail arose and brought back to mind the following piece which I first posted on WORDWALK on December 4, 2013—the first Christmas season of my blog.  With a toast to good cheer for your holiday season, I am sharing my Wassail memories and a Wassail recipe with you again on this December 7, 2022.

The Wassail Years

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                About thirty years ago, in the midst of a Victorian Dinner in celebration of the theatrical production of A VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (Indiana)–my parents, a friend, and I chuckled as we dipped our spoons into the mock turtle soup for the first time.  Since one chair at the long table where we were assigned to sit was still empty at the soup course, my mother quipped, “Someone is missing a good time and turtle soup this evening.”

                The young man sitting across from the empty chair responded, “That chair was for my fiancée, but we broke off the engagement after I purchased the tickets for this evening.”

                Feeling a little concerned about the attorney’s situation, we encouraged him to join our lively and fun conversation, as well as the wassail toast. 

I certainly enjoyed the wassail much more than the mock turtle soup that evening in the great hall.  The wassail bowl was also paraded into other venues where we attended Madrigal Dinners.  While the first Madrigal Dinner I experienced was presented by the prestigious School of Music of Indiana University (Bloomington), I even more appreciated the Madrigal Dinners at Indiana State University (Terre Haute)which offered a more intimate setting for the wassail toast and the holiday meal—complete with flaming plum pudding, a spectacular harpsichord, and outstanding Madrigal singers dressed in period costumes. 

                “The Wassail Song” quickly comes to mind as I think of these special dinners and our own Wassail recipe.  Well, actually, a friend gave me the recipe when we were in high school.  Nancy told me that the recipe was the one that the Hulman family used each holiday season.  Since I knew that Nancy’s family owned an automobile dealership and had some connections, I did believe that the Wassail recipe was from the famous Anton (“Tony”) Hulman, Jr., family—former owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as Hulman and Company (maker of Clabber Girl Baking Powder).  From the age of five years, I was enamored with going to the qualifications and race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  I became as big a race fan as my dad, so I was delighted to have the Wassail recipe of the Hulman family.

                For at least a couple of decades, I made the Wassail recipe for Christmas Eve.  I loved making a cheesecloth bag for the fragrant cloves and allspice and relished serving the cups of warm Wassail to each guest who arrived for the holiday gathering.  When the Christmas Eve was cold in our small rural town in Indiana, the kettle of Wassail would be empty by the end of the evening.  On a rare occasion when the weather was warm for December, we had leftover Wassail, but bottled it for New Year’s Eve or for gifts to friends.  Yes, a few times, we did toast the new year with Wassail.

                The spicy smells and the warm flavor of Wassail make my soul tingle with the spirit of a family Christmastide.  During the autumnal and winter holidays, Wassail is my favorite beverage because it is spiced with the warm memories of Victorian and Madrigal Dinners, as well as a Massa home.  Perhaps, you will consider toasting this holiday season or the cold wintry nights ahead with the following recipe.


1.  Using cheesecloth and button thread, make a bag in which you place one tablespoon whole cloves and one tablespoon whole allspice; set aside for later use.

2.  In a large kettle, combine:  one gallon apple cider, one-half cup light or dark brown sugar, six ounces of frozen orange juice (undiluted), and six ounces of frozen lemonade (undiluted).

3.  Stir in one tablespoon ground nutmeg.

4.  Float spice bag (step one) in kettle.

5.  After mixture begins to boil softly, cover and let simmer for twenty minutes.  IMPORTANT:  Do not allow mixture to come to a hard boil.

6.  Serve the Wassail warm with a cinnamon stick, with a small candy cane, or plain.

Number of servings:  25 punch cups

7.  Any leftover Wassail can be refrigerated and later re-heated.

Cheers!  Jolly Holidays!

Alice and Leader Dog Zoe

December 4, 2013, Wednesday

Re-posted by Alice and Leader Dog Willow on December 7, 2022, Wednesday


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  1. Hello Alice.
    I hope this message finds you doing well.
    I enjoyed this and would like to know if you’d be willing to email me concerning placing this recipe in the Writer’s Grapevine?
    My email should show in the info here if not and you don’t for whatever reason have it,you may ask Abbie or Marlene for it.
    Thanks and again great post.

  2. mfanyo permalink

    Thanks for posting this special blog once again, Alice. The memories warm my heart. Merry Christmas Wishes to you and Willow! Love, Mary

    Sent from my iPad


  3. This sounds like such a nice evening event that you described, Alice.
    When I was the ED of the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts in New Castle, PA from 1993-96 – the volunteers made this holiday delight and served it at all of our Christmas Open House events and our Christmas Market. Thanks for reminding me of how delicious it is. I never knew how it was made.

    • Hi, I’m not sure I’ve ever had it. I feel I’d remember if I had. Somehow I feel deprived.


    • Holiday Greetings, Lynda–Thanks for adding your experience with Wassail
      to this post.  As I am sure you can imagine, the recipes for Wassail are
      many and varied.

      Take care–Alice and Willow

      • I must try this before the season is over.

        I think I’ll ask my art mentor who’s name is also Linda, though spelled with an I, if she’d like to help make some for our little group who seems to always be together on free days in the art room.

  4. Susan McKendry permalink

    On a snowy day, reading this recipe again makes me plan to add the ingredients to the shopping list. I would imagine the smell of this beverage simmering is wonderful. Thanks for another good idea.

    • Holiday Greetings, Sue!  Good to hear from you!  Oh, yes, this recipe
      simmering on your stovetop will add a wonderful holiday fragrance to
      your home and compliment any festive atmosphere. Please let me know if
      you make and like this Wassail recipe. Another reader from Canada let me
      know that his family plans to make this recipe this Christmas season.


      Alice and Willow

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