Modern recipes begin with a base of wine, fruit juice or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry added.
The earliest versions were warmed mead into which roasted crab apples were dropped and burst to create a drink called 'lambswool' drunk on Lammas day, still known in Shakespeare's time.
Wassail is a hot, mulled punch often associated with Yuletide, drunk from a 'wassailing bowl'.
The word wassail comes from Old English was hál, related to the Anglo-Saxon greeting wes þú hál , meaning "be you hale"—i.e., "be healthful" or "be healthy".
A shotgun is fired overhead to scare away evil spirits and the group sings, the following being the last verse, Ale is occasionally replaced by ginger ale for children, especially around Halloween and New Year. please God send our master a good cask of ale..." sung throughout the towns of the Germanic nations, sending good luck to one's master in the new year. A wassail King and Queen lead the song and/or a processional tune to be played/sung from one orchard to the next; the wassail Queen is then lifted into the boughs of the tree where she places toast soaked in wassail from the clayen cup as a gift to the tree spirits (and to show the fruits created the previous year).This drink would be roughly equivalent to beer or wine in many contemporary Western cultures. Here’s to thee, old apple-tree, Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow, And whence thou mayst bear apples enow! In some counties the youngest boy or "Tom Tit" will stand in for the Queen and hang the cider soaked toast in the tree. A folktale from Somerset reflecting this custom tells of the Apple Tree Man, the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and in whom the fertility of the orchard is thought to reside.In the tale a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard and is rewarded by the Apple Tree Man who reveals to him the location of buried gold.British folk rock band Steeleye Span opened their third album "Ten Man Mop or Mr.Reservoir Butler Rides Again" (1971) with an extended, minor-key version of "Gower Wassail," Tim Hart singing the traditional verses and the others joining the chorus.The British rock band Blur released a cover of the song, with each member taking a verse.