“I bet we can make something with this.”
Jessi and I shop at a variety of grocery stores, but a recent favorite has been the highly economical Aldi. On top of the inexpensive off-brand items we find there, Jessi and I have taken great delight in the variety of unusual cocktail mixers filling Aldi’s aisles. Sparkling ginger blood orange juice? Yeah, that was an Aldi find. Bourbon barrel cola? Yep, Aldi again. Yesterday’s trip to the grocery store yielded another unexpected find— a Christmas item now on sale: wassail.
I had only heard the word in old carols. “Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too…” Yet here it was. Wassail. And at half price too.
A quick wikipedia search showed me that wassail is a traditional mulled cider made using apples and a variety of juices, spices, and spirits. Sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are standard in the recipe, but from there, the variations are endless. Many recipes call for wine or mead or sherry, and some even involve raw egg. This bottled wassail wasn’t quite as adventurous: black currant juice, apple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and sugar. Jessi and I agreed that the black currant was the dominant flavor, with the spices being something of an afterthought. “It almost tastes like cranberry juice,” I found myself thinking. After some initial adventures with lemon ginger bitters and gin, I got an idea. Why not lean into that cranberry vibe and make a wintery Cosmopolitan?
1.5 oz St. Augustine vodka
3/4 oz Cointreau Noir
1/4 oz lime juice
3 dashes Hella orange bitters
sprinkle of brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon
1 oz wassail
Shake in a mason jar, top with soda, and serve.
While I enjoyed this drink in an individual serving, I can’t help but wonder if a better way to serve it might be to lean into the wassail tradition and make a communal bowl. The recipe could be easily multiplied for a holiday party, so put a pin in this post for next year and give it a try!