What’s the Difference Between Wassail and Apple Cider?

Wassail vs Apple Cider

Seasonal beverages add to the coziness of the festive season, especially when served warm. They encapsulate the flavors of the holidays, provide warmth from winter weather, and help people unwind and relax. Like putting up a Christmas tree and baking gingerbread cookies, sipping a hot seasonal beverage spreads the festive spirit and joins the long list of traditions.

Joining peppermint mochas and hot chocolate, two of the most popular beverages for the holidays are wassail and apple cider. They serve up a festive cup of tang and spice. Their aromatic flavors mirror other seasonal favorite tastes on the holiday palate, like apple pie, poached pears, and rosemary garnished platters. In a way, these two flavors are a staple for the holiday season. 

However, many people debate whether wassail and apple cider differ. Both offer similar flavors and ingredients. Are they the same drink with different names? What makes these two important beverages different from one another? Keep reading to learn the difference between wassail and apple cider and how to make the most of them on your holiday menu. 

What Are Wassail and Apple Cider?

Wassail and apple cider use apples as their main ingredient. Like apple juice, they derive from liquids excreted from pressed apples. However, wassail and cider feature a different filtration process. They keep the pulp and any sediment, providing more concentrated, unrefined, and unfiltered flavors. Along with their pure apple juice concentration, wassail and cider also include a lot of added flavoring. 

There are various ingredients that give apple cider its spicy kick, from cinnamon to clove. Many of those spices also appear in wassail. Numerous recipes even use apple cider as a premixed, spiced drink base for wassail concoctions. Sometimes both will also include orange mulled into the mix and an alcoholic component.

Differences and Similarities

The biggest difference between apple cider and wassail is that the latter comes with alcohol. Meanwhile, apple cider usually is non-alcoholic, although many spike it for more celebratory festivities.

Both drinks feature similarities – like flavor and ingredients – because they are the same drink. They just vary in their alcohol content.

Wassail, in its basic form, is just a mulled and boozy variation of apple cider. However, many also question if both drinks share the same origins. Wassail originates from one of the Twelfth Night traditions and an ancient old English yuletide drinking ritual for good health in the next year. It’s unclear whether apple cider came first or if a non-alcoholic version of wassail came later down the line. 

How to Enjoy Wassail and Cider?

Wassail and cider are best served warm with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick. They complement other Christmas flavors, making them enjoyable throughout a holiday dinner. On the other hand, wassail or a spiked cider works better as a happy hour beverage or dessert drink. 

Whether you believe apple cider and wassail differ or are just the same drink with different alcohol contents, both drinks make great additions to a holiday menu. They provide rich, festive, aromatic flavors. A cozy cup will help you enjoy celebrations or an intimate night at home. Consider adding these essential ingredients to your favorite holiday drink recipes to help soak up the warm spirit of this cozy season. 

  • Laura is the owner of Julie's Cafe Bakery. She started this blog with her grandma Julie who introduced her to the amazing world of cooking. She likes to experiment with different flavors, and her favorite flavors combo is chicken with coconut milk, curry and peanuts!