Wassail hails from veis heill, an old toast of Norse origin that means “be in good health.” So says the “Food Lover’s Companion,” a compendium of food, drink and culinary terms.
Wassail is also a drink — generally wine or ale sweetened with sugar of some sort and flavored with spices — enjoyed by people making that toast. It’s associated with Yuletide, the old term for Christmas. But you don’t have to wait until Christmas to taste the version crafted by Honey Moon Mead & Cider, which uses honey from Skagit Valley to sweeten its creations. Honey Moon’s wassail mead is available year-round in its tasting room in Bellingham, and is sold in area stores.
“We initially developed it thinking it would be a seasonal Christmas-time drink,” says Anna Evans, who owns the business with her husband, Murphy Evans.
But people kept asking for their wassail — infused with a mulling spice blend of cinnamon, clove and star anise from World Spice Merchants in Seattle — no matter the season. So Honey Moon obliged and people now can get a taste of Christmas whenever they want.
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“It’s great warmed,” Anna Evans says. “It’s good at room temperature, but people really seem to like it warmed by the fire for that time of year.”
In Honey Moon’s tasting room, the wassail is served at room temperature.
Want something warm to ward off a chilly evening? Try Honey Moon’s hot spiced mead, which includes wassail.
Honey Moon is in the alley at 1053 N. State St. Phone: 360-734-0728.
Here are some other places in Whatcom County that offer drinks that will give you a break from the cold and dark months ahead, or just enjoy them as part of a breather from the busy holidays.
, 300 W. Champion St.; 360-738-3767.
This coffeehouse is the place to go for an extraordinary cup of joe that will elevate any ordinary wintry day. Black Drop creations include the 100 Acre Wood — a honey, apple and spiced-maple latte that a certain bear would love, as would people who love maple — and the Level 10 Fireball, in which chocolate and chipotle give your coffee a sweet, spicy kick.
• Chocolate Necessities, 1426 Cornwall Ave.; 360-733-6666.
The best things are sometimes the simplest. Take the downtown store’s Italian sipping chocolate. You go in. You choose from a variety of seven quality chocolates, ranging from a white chocolate to a dark, bittersweet chocolate with a 70 percent cocoa mass. The staff melts the chocolate, combines it with whipping cream, and gives you perfection in a cup.
“We like to say it’s like a liquid truffle,” says Mele Lawson, store manager.
You sip. You swoon. You’ll come back for more.
•Steakhouse9 Bistro & Lounge
, 115 E. Homestead Blvd., Lynden; 360-778-2849.
This restaurant’s seasonal offerings include a hot toddy made with Calvados apple brandy, honey, lemon and hot water — poured into a mug and garnished with a cinnamon stick.
“It’s very simple but a little more themed toward fall,” says Andrew Keith, the front-of-house manager.
If chocolate is more to your liking, Steakhouse9 offers a salted caramel mocha using its own sauce made from dark Belgian chocolate combined with home-infused vanilla vodka, Godiva dark chocolate liqueur, hot milk and hot water. The drink is topped with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel and sea salt sprinkles.
•Boundary Bay Brewery
, 1107 Railroad Ave.; 360-647-5593.Kulshan Brewing Co.,
2238 James St.; 360-389-5348.
For cold drinks that warm the soul, turn to Whatcom County’s bounty of breweries and their seasonal offerings, including from Boundary and Kulshan.
Boundary Bay’s Cabin Fever is a strong ale that’s a favorite among those who love its smooth and rich, malty flavor. It’s also part of the line of award-winning brews that Boundary has been turning out since opening in 1995. Find it at the brewpub or around town, including at Haggen grocery stores.
Kulshan is a newer brewery in Bellingham, opening on James Street in 2012. But it seems to have developed a fan base from day one — popularity fueled in part by creations that include its Horseman’s Head Pumpkin Ale and Royal Tenenbaum Christmas Ale. The Horseman imparts flavors of sweet pumpkin pie spices and chocolate malt. You might lose your head over it.
The Royal Tenenbaum is like Christmas in a pint glass — something a little bready and malted with a taste of fir, pine or spruce tree on the tongue that should make your mouth jolly even if the idea of the flavors working seems absurd. Find the brews at Kulshan’s James Street pub or around town this season.
Next year, you also can find them at Kulshan’s new, 12,000-square-foot building now under renovation at 1538 Kentucky St.