The original inhabitants of our fair country nurtured certain berries for use as energy foods against the long and frigid winters. One of these tangy and colorful berries is known as the cranberry.
Cranberries are a quintessential New England staple and also hail from New Jersey. They are found in shallow, brackish water, waist deep at most; floating just below the surface. These growing mediums are known as cranberry bogs. Cranberries, dear readers, are not only the key ingredient in your thanksgiving turkey relish, nor are they the sole base of that Cosmopolitan cocktail in your hand. They are powerful medicine! Many recipes for cranberries have unique health benefits.
We won’t be covering the cranberries health benefits here. Far from. These are recipes to catch a buzz with. Far from the medicinals of yore that only had healing in mind. Ah, the luck of the draw! And you thought these cocktails were only for good health! Here’s to what ails ye!
Cranberry Simple Syrup
- 1-pound uncooked cranberries – simmer for at least an hour cooked with a cup of fresh orange juice (let cool, puree and set aside)
- 1 cup Demerara Sugar
- 1 cup simmering water
- combine the Demerara Sugar and water
- simmer not more than 160 degrees for 2 hours, add more water as necessary to make a thick syrup
- Add the cranberry puree to the Demerara simple syrup, stir well to combine
- cool the syrup
- add an ounce of 100 proof vodka for a slightly longer life
- throw out if the cranberry syrup dances Irish jigs in the dark of night within your fridge
“Took the Numbers from Sharky”
- 1 oz. Cranberry Syrup
- ½ oz. Absinthe- I used the fine Absinthe named Lucid- available all over the place!
- 1 oz. Bourbon Whiskey- I used Barrell Bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Fresh Mint
- Lime Bitters- I used Fee Brothers Lime
- Add the cranberry syrup to a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with bar ice
- Add the Absinthe and the Bourbon
- Cap and Shake to combine- 10 seconds at most
- In two pre-chilled Old-Fashioned glasses, gently muddle some well-washed spearmint
- Add a handful or two of crushed ice
- Strain the cranberry syrup over the crushed ice/mint crown in the glass
- Dot with Lime Bitters
Another use for the Cranberry syrup is named:
“Saw the guys passing the hat”
- 1 oz. Cranberry Syrup
- 3 oz. Barr Hill Gin- hand-distilled from raw honey and Vermont grain
- 1 oz. Dark Maple syrup (grade b)
- 4 oz. Seltzer Water-unflavored
- To a Mixing glass filled ¾ with ice
- Add the Cranberry Syrup
- Add the Barr Hill Gin
- Add the Dark Maple Syrup
- Stir for at least 50 turns
- Strain into Collins glasses with a large hand-cut spear of ice in them
- Top with Seltzer to taste
- Dot with lemon bitters – your choice!
A mocktail? Say it isn’t so…
“What about the numbers?” (Mocktail Version)
- Roasted Cranberry and Orange Juice with seltzer and Angostura Bitters
- Roast the cranberries and at least five pounds of oranges (halved) with Angostura Bitters in a 400-degree oven for ½ hour, turn down to 250 and roast for another 1-2 hours or until well melted, cool and juice
- The mocktail: Add the roasted cranberry and orange juice to Collins glasses with ice- top with grapefruit seltzer and dot with Angostura Bitters to finish
“What About The Numbers?” (Cocktail)
- 2-4 tablespoons cranberry sauce- sweetened
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- ½ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice-strained
- 3 oz. Bourbon Whiskey – for this cocktail I used Barrell Bourbon, but a fine Rye Whiskey can substitute very nicely in a pinch
- to a cocktail mixing glass filled ¾ with ice
- add: cranberry sauce
- white balsamic vinegar
- freshly squeezed lemon
- and the Bourbon Whiskey
- Stir to combine
- Strain into rocks glasses with one large cube of ice in each
- Orange zest- always cut with a knife instead of using a peeler
“The Big Pay-Back”
- 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce – sweetened
- 3 oz. freshly squeezed/Roasted Pineapple Juice (prep: Roast pineapple slices for an hour at 400 degrees-or grilled until charred- dot with Angostura before roasting or grilling-let cool and then juice
- 3 oz. uncolored, unsweetened and absolutely non-manipulated rum–I used Foursquare
- Coconut Water Ice – yup. Make ice from coconut water- it’s pure and delicious!
- Angostura Bitters
- To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with bar ice:
- add the cranberry sauce
- Then roasted/grilled pineapple juice
- Then the rum
- Cap and shake hard for 30 seconds
- Fill two Collins glasses with coconut water ice
- Strain the rum punch over the top and dot with more Angostura
- It’s the Big Pay Back!
When muddling any kind of fruit, use a large flat muddler for the task, don’t attempt to push too hard- you may crack the glass, forcing you to start over again. Also, if you are doing a fruit and herb muddle- add these fragile ingredients at the very end, just before building your cocktail to avoid any off-putting, vegetal flavors caused by over mudding the chlorophyll laden herbs. Don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us. I’ve ruined plenty of fine bourbon cocktails this way, by over muddling the mint. Don’t do it!
Pro Tip 2: Mint Juleps – a Cautionary Tale
A couple years ago I traveled from New Jersey to cover the horse-racing event known as the Kentucky Derby. It is my duty to report that the Mint Juleps served at this bastion of all things true and good were not the shining achievement of my drinking career.
Far from, with black freezer burned and slimy mint competing with the cheap-lackluster whiskey- I’m not sure that the ice was made with water drawn from the purest well. You can do much better at making this cocktail yourself.
The Mint Julep According To Myself, The Cocktail Whisperer
- Fresh Kentucky Colonel Spearmint- well washed
- Fresh ice
- Some raw sugar, to taste really- you’ll know how much to use. And no, not white sugar- never that stuff called bar sugar either-it’s poison
- 3 oz. Darned good Bourbon Whiskey- spend more than you have. It’s worth it.
- Muddle (lightly, to release the perfume) the mint and some raw sugar
- Add a handful of ice
- Add an ounce or two of bourbon
- Add some more mint and muddle
- Add some more ice and bourbon
- And so on
- I use a sterling silver julep cup with a copper core
- ‘Nuff said- you stop when it is frosty all over and it sticks to your hand
- Garnish with a sprig of fresh spearmint