*Please treat old recipes with respect and due caution, as some ingredients can be toxic.

Wassail recipe of Bob Lewis’s mother, Anita Lewis

To prepare the Wassail bowl:

Simmer a small quantity of the following spices in a teacupful of water: cardamoms, cloves, nutmeg, mace, ginger, cinnamon and coriander. When done, put the spice into two, four or six bottles of port, sherry or Madeira, with one pound and a half of fine loaf sugar – that’s the four bottles – and set all on the fire in a clean, bright saucepan. Meanwhile, have the yolks of twelve and the whites of six eggs well whisked up in it, and when the spiced and sugared wine is a little warm take out one teacupful, and so on for three or four cups. After which, when it boils, add the whole of the remainder, pouring it in gradually and stirring briskly all the time so as to froth it up. The moment a fine froth is obtained, toss in twelve fine soft roasted apples and send it up hot.

Now, the spices for each bottle of wine is ten grains of mace, forty-six grains of cloves, thirty-seven grains of cardamoms, twenty-eight grains of cinnamon, twelve grains of nutmeg, forty-eight grains of ginger and forty-nine grains of coriander seeds. So there you are, that’s what you want per bottle.


SUSSEX WASSAIL (from Bob Lewis)

N.B. The tune of the verses is very like God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

A wassail, a wassail, a wassail we begin

With sugar plums and cinnamon and other spices in.


With a wassail, a wassail, a jolly wassail,

And may joy come to you and to our wassail.


Oh, master and mistress, as you sit by the fire

Consider us poor wassail boys who travel through the mire.


Oh, master and mistress, if you be but willing,

Come send us out your eldest son with sixpence or a shilling.


Oh, master and mistress, if thus it should you please

Come send us out your white loaf, likewise your Christmas cheese.


Oh, master and mistress, if you will so incline,

Come send us out some roast beef, likewise your Christmas chine.


If you’ve any maids within your house, as I suppose you’ve none,

They’d not let us stand a-wassailing so long on this cold stone.


We’ve wassailed all this day long, but nothing could we find,

But an owl in an ivy bush and her we left behind.


We’ll cut a toast all round the loaf and set it by the fire,

We’ll wassail bees and apple trees unto your heart’s desire.


Our purses they are empty, our purses they are thin,

They lack a little silver to line them well within.


Hang out your silver tankard upon a golden spear,

We’ll come no more a-wassailing until another year.