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There’s a common misconception about the 12 Days of Christmas. It doesn’t lead it up December 25th — it actually starts on December 25th and ends on January 6th. Or, as we call it in New Orleans, the first day of Carnival Season. There’s also an equally lesser-known beverage that’s enjoyed at this time: wassail.

Where did wassail come from?
The term ‘wassail’ most likely comes from Old Norse origins. And the word loosely translates to the phrase “to be in good health”. But the drink itself is tied more closely to English or French roots.

Dating back to the 12th century, people would fill a large goblet (aka wassail bowl) with a warm, cider-like mead. Then, they would go door-to-door around the village and offer sips of the drink to everyone while caroling. The idea was to spread cheer to the village’s people, inspire good luck for the upcoming harvest and scare away evil spirits for another year. Some people say wassailing inspired Christmas caroling as we know it today.

Wassail also has Shakespearean origins. Wassailing is mentioned specifically in Hamlet. Although it’s debatable whether it’s referencing the drink or the spirit of revelry during the holidays, there’s no mistaking that both were common at the time.

How do you make wassail?
Originally, the drink consisted of warm ale, wine or cider that had a heaping pile of cinnamon-like spices, some honey and sometimes an egg. Today, the ingredients are mostly the same, but a few things have been tweaked over the years to make wassail a more palatable holiday drink.

Much like other things made in New Orleans, it starts with a big, boiling pot. Throw each of these ingredients into a pot and let simmer all day (or at least eight hours) without boiling.

1 cup aged rum
2 quarts apple cider
2 cups orange juice
half cup lemon juice
12 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground nutmeg

Best served hot from the pot with a big group of friends and family.

Where can you get wassail today?
That’s the fun part. You can’t. At least, you usually can’t go somewhere and order it. It’s a drink that’s almost entirely made at home for friends, family and neighbors. It’s just another excuse to get everyone together for holiday festivities — and another excuse to try a new-to-you holiday drink.


Strike Down Social
Signature Events

Strike Down Social

Monday, December 5, 2022
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Historical celebration of Repeal Day with a Prohibition-era cocktail tasting.

Sips and Slices

Sips & Slices: Cocktail and Pie Pairing with Windowsill Pies

Tuesday, December 6, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Pie and cocktail pairing hosted by Sazerac House cocktail experts and Windowsill Pies.

Barrel to Bottle

Barrel to Bottle

Friday, December 9, 2022
5:00 pm - 5:45 pm

Bottle your own Sazerac Rye hosted by Sazerac House Distillery Team.

Creole Holiday Tradition
Signature Events

Drink & Learn: Creole Holiday Traditions

Tuesday, December 13, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

New Orleans History Discussion and Cocktail Demo Hosted by Drinks Historian Elizabeth Pearce.

Sip and Shop
Signature Events

Sip & Shop

Tuesday, December 13, 2022
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join us for our annual Sip & Shop event: a night of music, complimentary gift wrapping, cocktails and light bites. Our Sazerac House experts and local New Orleans vendors will be on hand to help you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list!

Cocoa Rum

Cocoa & Cocktails: Holiday Gatherings

Thursday, December 15, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Holiday inspired chocolate and cocktail pairing hosted by Sazerac House cocktail experts and Piety & Desire Chocolates.

Cheers Headdress

Crafting & Cocktails: Cheers Headdress

Tuesday, December 20, 2022
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Join us for a spirited afternoon of crafting and cocktails! Follow along during a headdress making workshop as you sip on seasonal cocktails and prepare to ring in the new year. Add flair to your holiday outfits and discover creative techniques under the instruction of a local New Orleans artist. Session includes all materials, however guests are invited to bring items from home that they would like to incorporate into their design. Cocktails and snacks will be served. Hosted by The Sazerac House and Elizabeth Zibilich. $50 per person.

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