What I found out was - everything goes, anything goes. The ingredients for each cocktail varied so much, it was hard to tell where one started and the other ended.
What one person called wassail was pretty close to warm eggnog. What another person called grog sure looked like mulled wine. Some concoctions were knock-your-socks-off alcoholic, while others were basically hot fruit juice.
There didn't seem to be any reason to riff off of a classic recipe, because I wasn't finding anything that looked classic ... or consistent. So I started with apple cider and added flavors I knew I'd like. If I was going to add one more thing, it might be cloves, since those tended to show up a lot in the mulled/spiced drinks, but I decided to leave them out since it seemed perhaps too common among them. I figured cinnamon filled that role nicely, and it gave me a good place to use some cinnamon sticks.
The flavor of this cocktail is reminiscent of apple pie, but the star anise add an interesting twist. It's pretty danged good, if I say so myself.
Hot Spiced & Spiked Apple Cider
1/2 gallon apple cider
1 cup white wine
1 cup rum
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
Put the apple cider, wine, rum, cinnamon sticks, and star anise into your slow cooker. Use a peeler to remove the zest of the orange in thin, wide strips. Place the zest in the slow cooker, then juice the orange and add the juice as well.
Cover the slow cooker and set it to high to warm the cider. The longer you cook it, the more the flavors of the spices will infuse into the cider, but it's pretty good as soon as it warms up.
Once it's hot, you might want to turn it down to low or warm if it will be served over a long period of time - you just want it pleasantly warm for drinking, so it doesn't need to be simmering when you serve it.
Leftovers can be strained and refrigerated and served chilled. Or reheat it for more warm drinks on chilly nights.
This recipe was developed using the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget programmable slow cooker which was provided by the manufacturer through the blog group 37 Cooks.