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Cooking with the Library–How to Make Victorian-Era Wassail

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Here we come a-wassailing, among the leaves so green;  

And here we come a-wand’ring, so fair to be seen. 

Have you ever looked back wistfully to the days of yore and wished that you could partake in some of the activities that were once popular? Well, with this blog post you absolutely can! We’ll be making Victorian-Era Wassail, which will be sure to warm you even in the coldest of winters.  

Wassail originated long before the Victorian era, but it has commonly been a drink given to carolers for their efforts. Carolers would be invited into the Victorian home after singing to warm up ‘round the wassail bowl before they moved along to the next house. The Christmas carol Here We Come A-Wassailing (also known as Here We Come A-Caroling) showcases this tradition. You can listen to that carol on A Celtic Christmas Celebration, which is available on Hoopla. 

This recipe was inspired by the fifth episode of BBC’s “Edwardian Farm” where historian Ruth Goodman tried her hand at making wassail. Edwardian Farm is available for borrowing from the PLYMC and can be checked out here. 


So, let’s get to it. As Mrs. Avis Crocombe would say (or Kathy Hipperson, who plays Mrs. Crocombe on the English Heritage YouTube channel), “For this recipe you will need… 


  • 24 whole cloves (12 cloves) 
  • 1 orange (½ orange) 
  • 8 CUPS apple cider (4 CUPS apple cider) 
  • 4 CUPS cranberry juice cocktail (2 CUPS cranberry juice cocktail) 
  • ½ C sugar (¼ C sugar) 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (1 cinnamon stick) 
  • 1 tsp bitters (½ tsp bitters) 
  • 24 whole allspice (12 whole allspice) 


NoteThis recipe makes 8 glasses of wassail, so if you want to drink it with a smaller crowd, half the recipe like I did in the video instructions. Halved ingredients are in parenthesis at the end of each ingredient line.  

Now, onto the actual making of the wassail.  



  1. Quarter your orange and then press the cloves into the peel. Whole cloves are spikey, so they should adhere easily, but give it a little push if they seem to be falling out.  
  2. Put the orange slices in a heavy pot or dutch oven, then add the apple cider, cranberry juice cocktail, sugar, cinnamon sticks, bitters, and allspice to the pot 
  3. Bring liquid mixture to a simmer until the sugar dissolvesthen lower your heat to the lowest setting and let the mixture heat uncovered for 1 ½ hours. This will let the flavors slowly combine, and as a perk, it will make your house smell absolutely wonderful. 
  4. Strain mixture into punch bowl if you wish, or ladle from pot directly into cups, then enjoy! 











Victorian recipes are oftentimes unusual and unlike most things we eat today, but they’re a fun experiment if you want to flash back to yesteryear and experience the culinary delights that would have been enjoyed by Queen Victoria or the residents of Downton Abbey. You can find more old-timey recipes in the following books:  


How to Cook: The Victorian Way with Mrs. Crocombe by Annie Gray

American Cookery: The First American Cookbook by Amelia Simmons

The Official Downton Abbey Christmas Cookbook by Regula Ysewijn

The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook 

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray


And if you’re still looking for more historically inspired recipes, take a look at our “Cooking Through the Ages” list on BiblioCommons! 


Have a holly, jolly, history-filled holiday season and let’s get cooking! 




Taylor S.

By day, Taylor is your run of the mill, cardigan-wearing librarian, but by night, she is a cross-stitching, history-loving, classic-movie-watching baker who is carrying on a continuous attempt to sew her own capsule wardrobe. She is probably reading two or three books at any given time.