AFK had a tradition of always being open on holidays. This policy was something I stated because I was one of those people on holidays who had nowhere to go. This year, due to AFK no longer having a physical location, we won’t be open. This single fact filled me with more unexpected sadness than most of the closing process. I always worked on holidays and enjoyed being there for others. This year, as we head into the winter months, I thought I’d share the recipe that became AFK tradition for holiday drinks. This way, a little bit of that can live on in your homes.
The AFK Wassail Tradition
If you stopped by one most holiday nights, you possibly tried the AFK Wassel. It was the hot cider drink that I kept in a hot hold by the bar. Customers have asked me for years to explain this drink. I struggled as this magical drink was more of an art form and expression than a recipe. I will do my best to break it down. I included a more friendly and less ad-hoc version at the end for people who don’t like mixing by taste.
Before we start, we need to understand the basic construction of Wassail before diving into more. Traditionally it’s just hot mulled cider. Mulled, meaning it has some if not all of the following spices: Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. There are plenty of optional things one can do after this. But that is essentially a Wassail. What we called Wassail at the Tavern looks like an abomination in comparison. So hold on to your fancy holiday hats!
The Dark Art of Making AFK Wassail
A warning before we start, this will feel like a very old school bartending guide recipe. To mangle my favorite quote from a guide from mid-1800s: “As it takes a genius to mix this, I don’t wish to insult you, I will not list further instructions.” I will, however, will do my best.
This list is enormous!
- Cider concentrate
- Hard Cider
- Red Wine
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Dark Rum
- Spiced Rum
- Cinnamon or flavored Whiskey
- Pineapple Juice
- Orange Juice
- Whole apples
The essential Spice List:
Now to the art of the AFK Wassail! I use a crockpot, but this can be made on a stove. First, as you may have guessed, I don’t water down the Cider concentrate. Instead, I use hard cider, mead, and red wine to thin out the concentrate in place of the water. This process makes it sweet without having to add in any sugar. The Ration is about four parts hard cider, two parts mead, one part wine, one part pineapple juice, one part orange juice. I slice up the apples and add them in before the liquid to not overfill the vessel. Add the cinnamon sticks and as many spices as your comfortable with (you can add more later), then let it heat for an hour or two (Don’t boil it) and make sure it’s covered.
Now here comes the important part! Stir it, then Taste it; if it’s too sweet, cut it down with some hot water. If it’s not sweet enough, add some sugar. Next comes the part where we add hard liquor. I usually start with the dark rum. Kraken is lovely for this as it imparts a vanilla taste to the drink. After I have that correct taste, I start with the spiced rum; this can reinforce many flavors already in the Wassail, so be careful. I splash the Whiskey in. I, for years, used Fireball till they changed their recipe; now I use pecan or apple whiskey. Lastly, about 1 oz cheap gin mostly for tradition, but the juniper flavor will complement things nicely.
Let all of this sit for a little longer. Then impress your friends with this VERY boozy Wassail.
So if you read that and immediately had a panic attack at how imprecise it was. First, I’m sorry. Second, this next recipe is for you.
Perhaps you’re spending the holiday months alone or limiting contact this year. And an entire crockpot of warm alcohol isn’t your thing or might be too tempting. You’d like to have a cup of the stuff to enjoy under a blanket. So this is my instant Wassail. Much fewer items to pick up, and overall pretty easy.
Instant Wassail (Irish Coffee glass, or ~8.5oz mug)
- A packet of hot Apple Cider Mix
- 1 oz holiday spiced mead or holiday spiced wine
- 1 oz spiced rum
- Cinnamon stick
- Hot water
In your mug or glass, pour in the mead/wine rum and Apple cider mix. Stir with the cinnamon stick to get as much of the cider mix dissolved as you can. Then pour in hot water while stirring. Careful not to burn yourself! Let cool enough to drink, and you’re good to go.