Wassail - Gastro Obscura
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This spiced, warming drink may have helped broker peace between warring tribes.

If you live in a cold climate, your favorite winter holiday drink is likely eggnog or mulled wine. But once upon a time, people depended on another beverage to keep them warm: wassail.

Wassail is a blend of hot ale or cider with spices. Traditionally, additives included curdled cream, eggs, and sugar. One variation is called Lamb’s Wool.

The unusual name is a relic from England’s Anglo-Saxon past, when the country was fought over by tribes led by warlords. In the 5th century, legend has it that a beautiful Saxon princess, Rowena, greeted her family’s rival, King Vortigern with a cup of wine. She toasted him with the words Waes hael!, meaning, “Good health!” It was quite effective: Vortigern fell in love with her and handed over the kingdom of Kent to her father.

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Anne Ewbank Anne Ewbank
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