Wassail Weekend is something I have looked forward to every year since I was a student at Texas Woman’s University. Whenever I invite friends and family, the response is “What is Wassail?” Wassail is a drink very similar to apple cider. It gets its name from an old Norse phrase, meaning “good health”. This was said when people were go from house to house drinking mulled cider, similar to saying “Cheers” or “Salud!” to a toast. This tradition was thought to bring about good health and a plentiful apple harvest in the next year. This old English tradition was the precursor to caroling. Nowadays, Wassail Weekend is a present-day spin on an ancient tradition that comes during at a perfect time of year, when all you need is an evening to relax in a positive and friendly environment before the stress of finals, and holidays.

Downtown Denton was full of wassailers trying more than 70 local businesses's concoctions. (Photo by Ed Steele Photography)

There are many ideas about what good wassail is supposed to taste like. Some people expect a strictly apple cider, others look for the old recipe containing eggs, and a couple seek out the citrusy tartness. Modern day wassail recipes differ from traditional apple cider recipes in that they contain oranges, and orange juice. In order to show my appreciation to the businesses that take part in Wassail Weekend, I take my job as a judge very seriously. This means trying as many samples as possible, and pondering their unique qualities after each taste! It can be so hard to pick which wassail is best because they are all so different. This year, I decided to judge the wassails based on their color and aroma, sweetness to tartness ratio, as well as creativity and presentation. Hopefully this will help you become an expert judge for next year’s wassailing.

The Top Three (by vote)

  1. Queen of Wassail - Dark Age Tattoo Studio
  2. Duke of Wassail - First People's Jewelers
  3. Lady of Wassail - Discover Denton Welcome Center

The Most Creative

  1. Oak St. Draft House

The first taste of this cider was the comforting and familiar taste of apples! This was followed by a slight pop of spice. That pop turned into a nice holiday fire. That wasn’t just mulling spices, but rather the bold and creative addition of cayenne pepper. This wassail was fun to try, and if you like spice this could be your go-to wassail.

  1. West Oak Coffee Bar

Deep brown was the color of this wassail. The color immediately let me know that this was going to be different. The flavor that jumps out at me was a rich caramel, But knowing  what west oak is all about, I tried to discern, is it tea, is it coffee. I could not tell by the time I finish my cup. It was tasty, warm, and memorable, but just a little too far out.

  1. Dark Age Tattoo Studio

This wassail was cloudy with a slightly red tone to it. There were cranberries floating around in the pitcher. This cider was balanced the cranberries did not stand out as bitter! It was sweet and absolutely delightful.

The Most Traditional

  1. Recycled Books

This hot cider served with cookies, warmed my heart. It had a heavy amount of mulled spices and smelled amazing! The flavor of this wassail is what wassail fest is all about. #justlikegrandmaswassail

  1. The (Ghost) Note

The (Ghost) Note with their crockpots of wassail to warm the crowd. (Photo by Ed Steele Photography)

I really look forward to The (Ghost) Note’s wassail each year. They almost always serve it from inside of their shop, which is an opportunity to get in out of the cold (not that it was cold this year). This wassail is served out of their crock pots where you can see apples and oranges floating around. This wassail is the real deal, one of the backbones of wassail weekend!

  1. UNT on the Square

The clear plastic cider mugs, and the preserved apples always gets UNT some extra points for presentation. It was hot, and had a great texture.

The Best Overall!

  1. First People’s Jewelers

This wassail was thick and creamy!  The color was a cloudy brown. It was sweet and it was clear that many spices were used. This wassail seemed like it was make from scratch and is the cider that I can see myself drinking every day for the rest of winter.

  1. Cartwright’s

It smelled amazing! The orange color of this wassail was slightly translucent, so I could see the bottom of my cup.  The first sip was confirmation that your eyes and nose were not fooling you and that you did indeed have a delightful wassail. This citrus-heavy cider was both tasty, and creative.

  1. La di da (leaded)

Cinnamon sweet, nice and hot! This wassail was a classic translucent rusty brown color. It was clear that this cider wasn’t playing around. You can’t go wrong adding a little holiday spirit.

Maybe you are inspired to come out next year with your reusable wassail tasting mug, and a notepad to take your tasting notes in (or maybe not). Either way you don’t have to wait a year to have good wassail. Try developing your own wassail recipe as you wait for the fun and festivities to roll around again.