Homemade Wassail (Hot Apple Cider)

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Wassail is a tasty drink made with apple cider, fruit juice, and mulling spices. Sweet, spiced, and a little tart, it’s just what you need to warm up on a chilly night. Make this hot cider drink in the crockpot or on the stove!

titled: Wassail Hot Apple Cider Drink


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Our friend Allen brought Wassail to our Christmas party a few years ago,
and we have been hooked ever since.

I played with the recipe a little, but either way, this hot apple cider is amazing and a beloved new tradition in our house.

Everyone always asks for the recipe, so you know it’s good!

overhead shot of mulled cider ingredients

What Is Wassail?

Originally, the term was used as a greeting shared by neighbors and carolers, or as part of a toast made with a mug of cider at winter gatherings.

Over time, the term became more associated with the drink itself rather than for the wish of good cheer.

There isn’t much difference between wassail and hot mulled cider. Both are made with sweet apple cider and infused with warm spices.

pouring cider into pot with cinnamon sticks

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Apple Cider – It’s important to use cider and not juice because it has a richer and more complex flavor.

    I like to use Musselman’s, but feel free to use your favorite brand.
  • Brown Sugar – Replace with 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup if you prefer.
  • Pineapple Juice – This has a nice balance of tart and sweet, but cranberry juice is another popular choice for hot mulled cider.
  • Cinnamon Sticks – Ground cinnamon has a tendency to float on the surface, so sticks are best for simmering.

    However, about 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon can be used if needed.
  • Whole Cloves – Use 1 teaspoon of ground cloves if whole ones aren’t available.
adding apple slices to pot of cider

How to Make Hot Mulled Cider

Add everything to a stockpot on the stove and simmer for an hour or two until warm and fragrant. If you want a less fussy version you can skip the fruit.

Then, scoop out the fruit and whole spices with a slotted spoon or drain the liquid through a sieve. It is SO simple!

I like to store this cider drink in jugs in the fridge, then warm up a cup at a time in the microwave. For parties, I like to keep it hot in an airpot.

Crockpot Apple Cider Instructions

Simply combine everything in your slow cooker and cook on Low for 6-8 hours or High for 3-4 hours.

Because of the amount this makes, you will need to split the ingredients between two crockpots, or reduce the recipe so it fits into one.

pouring pineapple juice into pot of apple cider

What You Will Need For This Recipe

  • Use one large Slow Cooker or two smaller 4-quart ones. For the stovetop, you’ll just need a Large Pot
  • Citrus Juicer – This gets every last drop out, which makes juicing lemons so much easier.
  • Sieve – Great for straining liquid or sifting dry ingredients to prevent clumps. You can even use it to dust powdered sugar over desserts!
    Or, scoop solids out with a slotted spoon instead.
  • Funnel – We keep apple cider jugs to store this in, so this is a must! It makes transferring liquids to separate containers quick and easy.
  • Airpot – With pump action pouring, it is a party must-have. It is perfect for keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. And makes serving so easy!
overhead: pot of cider with apple and orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves

Storage and Reheating

Hot apple cider will stay fresh for 7-10 days if you keep it in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

To combine any sediment that may settle at the bottom, be sure to give the cider drink a good stir or shake first.

Reheat a mugful in the microwave or larger amounts on the stove. For parties, you can warm it back up in the crockpot on Low.

straining fruit and spices out of cider

Wassail Recipe FAQ

Is wassail only for Christmas?

Not at all! You can enjoy this hot, spiced beverage for any occasion — it just happens to be most popular during the winter season.

Can I add alcohol to this wassail recipe?

Absolutely! Bourbon, brandy, and dark rum are the most popular choices, but flavored liqueurs or sweet red wine would also taste great!

Either add the alcohol in addition to the other ingredients or substitute it for some of the cider instead. Or, add a shot of your preferred alcohol to the bottom of a mug before pouring in the mulled cider.

apple and orange slices floating in pot of cider with cinnamon sticks

What other spices can I use?

Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite blend, but use whole spices for better flavor. You could even add a piece of fresh ginger when simmering as well!

  • Allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Star anise
  • White peppercorns
  • Cardamom

If you don’t want to fish out all the tiny spices later, stick them directly into the fruit slices!

clear mug of cider with fruit and cinnamon sticks

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overhead: two clear mugs of hot cider with fruit and cinnamon sticks

wassail cider drink in glass

Homemade Wassail (Hot Apple Cider)

Donna Elick
Wassail is a tasty drink made with apple cider, fruit juice, and mulling spices. Make this hot cider recipe in the crockpot or on the stove!
5 stars from 1 review
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes
Course Drink
Cuisine American
Method Stovetop
Servings 24 – 36


  • 1 gallon apple cider, I use Musselman’s
  • 4 cups no pulp orange juice
  • 46 ounces 100% pineapple juice
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 10 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 granny smith apple, washed, cored and quartered
  • 1 Honeycrisp apple, washed, cored and quartered
  • 1 navel orange, (washed, cored and quartered)


  • Combine liquid ingredients in a large stock pot. Stir in brown sugar, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks.
  • Top with cut fruit, keeping the rinds and peels facing up towards the surface of the liquid.
  • Heat on medium until boiling, and then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 1-2 hours.
  • Remove fruit, cinnamon sticks and cloves. You can strain the wassail through a sieve if you prefer.
  • Ladle into heat-safe mugs, top with garnish and enjoy.

Donna’s Notes

Keeps for 7-10 days in the refrigerator. We keep the apple cider jugs and store it in them.
Wassail can also be served cold.
You can cook this in a slow cooker. The whole recipe won’t quite fit in a 6 quart slow cooker so you can split it into 2 or cut the recipe down. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
This can also be made in an instant pot on the slow cooker setting.(using it as a crock pot)
To reduce tartness, you can add extra orange, pineapple, or apple cider juice.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 172cal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 11mg | Sugar: 35g | Fiber: 2g | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): wassail hot apple cider drink

Originally published December 2020

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