FOOD & DRINK
Wassail's beverage program features a selection of ciders on draught and by-the-bottle.
The seasonal menu is inspired by cuisines of cidermaking regions, layering multiple flavors and textures to create original and deeply satisfying dishes that are bright and nourishing. We are dedicated to exploring the the exceptional pairing qualities of cider.
In rural colonial America, every homestead had an orchard, and cider was once the default drink. But the 20th century brought with it industrialization followed by Prohibition, and apples favored for drinking were replaced by those more suited for eating. Thousands of complex varieties were eventually reduced to a banal few worthy of a kindergartener’s lunchbox. Even the word “cider” was co-opted to mean fresh-pressed juice, requiring the insertion of the charmless word “hard” to differentiate the fermented stuff for grown ups.
In rest of the world, cider (sidra, cidre, apfelwein) means the fermented juice of apples. Entire regions in Northern Spain, England and France have centuries-old traditions based around this mythical fruit whose adaptability (and good fortune to have picked a spot on the Silk Road) helped it to spread from its birthplace in the mountains of Kazakhstan millions of years ago to every continent on Earth.
Luckily, America is in the midst of a renaissance. Cidermakers are fermenting juice again to create a diverse array of dry, still, and flavored ciders; orchardists are planting heirlooms and "spitters," the highly tannic and bitter apples suitable only for fermenting; foragers are finding abandoned trees and reviving long forgotten varieties; urban homesteaders are making cider in their apartments and backyards.
At Wassail, we celebrate this fabled fruit and historic drink and all those who make it with integrity and care.
Over the centuries the word has been in existence, Wassail has meant many things: A salutation (good health). A noun (the drink). A verb (to sing). Now it also means a cider bar and restaurant on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side.
An ancient word derived from Old Norse, the English adopted waes hael as a greeting meaning “be well.” For cider lovers and apple growers especially in the West Country of England, wassail is a ritual blessing for apple trees.
Villagers carrying torches gather in the orchard on the twelfth night, and circle the largest tree. They pour cider on the roots. Pieces of toast are hung on the branches as offerings. Guns are fired. Some bang pots and pans. The key is to make loud noises that will frighten away the evil spirits. Everyone sings songs to the trees to ensure a good harvest in the fall.
Wassail — the word, the ritual and the place — is about conviviality, sharing food and drink, and in this particular spot, paying homage to the orchards that once grew here.