Cider and damson gin wassail

  • Easy

Bring good luck to next year's harvest by making a wassail drink with friends and family

The Orchard cook_gin wassail

The kids and I go wassailing every January without fail; it’s a fine evening of tradition, theatre and a hearty dose of paganism (which never goes amiss in my opinion). A torch-lit procession starts at the far-end of the village and makes its way towards the orchard; as we approach, pots and pans are banged and rattled to scare away evil spirits and ensure a good harvest in the autumn. Toast soaked in wassail is hung on an apple tree as a gift to the spirits, wassail is sipped and there is singing and dancing.

A recipe by Stuart Ovenden from The Orchard Cook.



  • Crab apples 150g, or 6 small dessert apples
  • Brown sugar 2tbsp
  • Cider 1.5litres
  • Damson gin 250ml
  • Caster sugar 200g
  • Orange 1, sliced
  • Root ginger thumb-sized piece, thinly sliced
  • Cinnamon sticks 2
  • Star anise 2
  • Allspice berries 6
  • Cloves 4
  • Nutmeg 1/4, freshly grated

To serve

  • White toast 4 slices, cut into triangles


  • Step 1

    Heat the oven to 180C(160C fan). Toss the apples in the brown sugar and transfer to an oven-proof dish; roast for 20 minutes until the apples have partly softened and the skins are starting to split. Set aside to cool.

  • Step 2

    Stir the cider, damson gin, caster sugar, orange, ginger and spices together in a large pan, then bring to a simmer on a hob or fire. Serve in mugs or handled glasses with toast to dip into the wassail.

Stuart Ovenden is the author of The Orchard Cook, £25, published by Clearview Books.

Main image: ©Stuart Ovenden