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Wassail: A real winter warmer

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by Laraine Perri

Waes hael (“be hale,” “be healthy”) is the Old English holiday greeting and sentiment behind the name of Wassail, a potent, warm libation. A punch that packs one, wassail owes as much to its evocation of Christmas carolers bringing a cheerful song and hope for good tidings (their reward: a drink from the wassail bowl) as it does to its concoction: a heady blend of ale (ideally, a toasty, malty holiday one), fortified wine, roasted apples and winter spice.

Wassail

Serves about 12

3 small Gala or Fuji apples, cored and halved

2 bottles Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer

2 3-inch cinnamon sticks

3 cloves

1 cup dry sherry

1⁄2 cup plus 1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar, divided

1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

zest from half a lemon, in long strips

• Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Place the apples in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle 1⁄2 cup brown sugar over the fruit, and pour 1⁄4 cup of the beer in the bottom of the dish. Bake until tender, about 40 minutes.

• While the apples bake, combine the remaining beer with the remaining 1⁄4 cup brown sugar, sherry, lemon zest and spices in a large pot over medium-low heat until the mixture just begins to bubble (do not let the liquid boil). Reduce heat to the lowest setting, and simmer 30 minutes.

• Remove the lemon zest, cinnamon sticks and cloves from the pot. Add the apples and their juices, stir well to combine, and simmer together 10 minutes. Ladle into mugs and serve.

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