I spied the original version of this cocktail in Bon Appetit magazine when I received their October issue in September of this year. Though clearly a fall cocktail, at that time we were having a hot streak and the notion of fall or cranberries seemed in the distant future. Fast forward and suddenly 95 degrees would require that we combine our daytime and nighttime temperatures and add some to boot! We’ve had two big snowfalls in Denver and nothing says fall quite like leaves and snow falling at the same time!
I can’t deny I have a strong proclivity to almost anything cranberry. Maybe it was the year I discovered them after a childhood of associating cranberry sauce with a cylindrical form with ring marks embedded in the shape. I HATED that stuff; ergo I hated all things cranberry by association. Luckily I politely tried some fresh cranberry sauce at a friends once; everything changed and now this time each season I look forward to seeing what can be done with these pretties.
This cocktail is not just pretty though. While I do love the festive look that can take us from the day after Halloween all the way to the end of the year, it’s the combination of ingredients that make it spectacular. Cranberry, citrus, ginger ale and, or course, gin all meld together to offer a crisp, not too sweet and altogether refreshing cocktail.
I freely admit I’m a Costcoaholic and buying a bag of cranberries means I have to design several uses. I often have them steeping in a pot on the stove with some cinnamon and orange zest; I love having my home scented for the holidays with something other than a room spray. I also love to decorate my holiday tables with them in bowls of water with floating candles. They float and surround the candles and it makes for a natural and beautiful table decoration.
But you really don’t care about my holiday decor, right? It’s all about the beverage! Beyond the berries, the lemons and orange slices, I think it’s important to use a good quality gin as well as a quality ginger ale. I used Bombay Sapphire gin, it’s my go to gin for cocktails and I’ve also become hooked on Boylan Ginger Ale which I’ve been getting at World Market; a very ginger ale it is! The original recipe called for adding sherry but I substituted ginger ale and it’s perfect…just that little bit of fizz adds a welcome element; ginger beer would also be a great choice if you can find it. But you know what’s important that is probably not often considered for cocktail success? Ice. When my ice maker went on the fritz; I recalled seeing that the local Sonic drive-in sold ice. I bought some to use until my ice maker was repaired and now I can’t stop. I just love the small round pellets that are so crunchable. For this cocktail that requires you mound some ice on top, it’s especially perfect!
I hope you’ll join me and make this drink for the holidays. It’s not just a pretty face. Cheers!
Want more ideas? Check out these holiday cocktails too:
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- ½ orange, cut into slices
- 1½ cups dry gin - Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater or Tangueray suggested
- 1 cup chilled Ginger Ale (or Ginger Beer for a more pronounced ginger flavor)
- 4 mint springs
- Bring sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; pour off all but one cup of syrup, reserving any extra for another use.
- Heat the syrup to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Add the cranberries and simmer for 2-3 minutes until they just begin to burst. Remove from heat and let cool in syrup.
- Place 2 Tablespoons drained cranberries and 6 Tablespoons cranberry syrup in a large pitcher; add the lemon wedges and orange slices.
- Using a muddler or wooden spoon, vigorously mash the fruit.
- Stir in gin and let steep for at least 5 minutes.
- Strain into a medium pitcher.
- Fill 4 glasses with crushed ice and ¼ cup ginger ale.
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and then pour half the cranberry mixture into the shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds, strain liquid into two glasses. Repeat.
- Mound additional ice on top of each glass and garnish with 3 candied cranberries and a mint sprig