How to Make Cranberry Liqueur and the Perfect Champagne Cocktail for the Holidays

This is one of my favorite things to make over the holidays yet because I put it on my blog a couple of years ago, it has for the most part languished in the nether world of being there but no one knowing it. As I work to finish the batch for this year along with the Coffee Liqueur (Faux Kahlua!) I bottled last week I decided this was one of those ‘have to’s.’ Meaning I have to take some new photos, I have to re-post this article and then most importantly? You have to make it!

I’ve mentioned I make my Christmas gifts and each year is a greater challenge to make something more unique than the last. When I made this several years ago it was one of my first forays into the making of a liqueur. As it turns out they are pretty easy. Some inexpensive vodka, sugars and your choice of flavors and you’ve got your own brew. How cool is that? Especially cool when vodka, sugars and a few different ingredients are all you need for both the cranberry and coffee liqueurs.

The year I made this for gifts I also included Brown Butter Rum pound cake, jam, candles, soap, candy, and my Grandma’s Pecan Butter Ball; which one do you think everyone loved the best?

It makes a nice sipping liqueur with a touch or orange in the mix but I especially love this gorgeous cocktail for the holidays. Though I’ve labeled the cocktail as a champagne one, the truth is I most often use a Spanish Cava. Know what the difference is? Mostly $$$’s. Only sparkling wines made from the Champagne region in France can legally be called champagne but both Italy’s Prosecco and Spain’s Cava suit me just fine. Sure, use Champagne if you must but I typically never mix a liqueur with a good champagne, preferring the more reasonably priced alternatives. And those berries that are left after brewing? Perfect on some pound cake with whipped cream for a very special holiday dessert or just served simply with some ice cream and a splash of the liqueur; it’s ice cream with attitude!

How to Make Cranberry Liqueur and the Perfect Champagne Cocktail for the Holidays
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 2 cups vodka (Use decent vodka but top shelf not required)
For the Champagne Cocktail:
  • 1 & ½ oz Cranberry Liqueur, chilled
  • 4 oz Champagne, Cava or Prosecco, chilled
Preparation
  1. Combine sugar and water in heavy saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer sugar syrup for three minutes, making sure all of the sugar has dissolved in the water.
  2. Add cranberries, orange juice and orange rind.
  3. Remove syrup mixture from heat and cool slightly.
  4. Add mixture to Cuisinart and chop just slightly to open up berries; cool completely.
  5. Add vodka and mix thoroughly.
  6. Pour into container; glass or plastic. Cover and store in a dark, cool location for 3 weeks. (I put mine in the garage).
  7. Stir ingredients every couple of days.
  8. Once the mixture is ready, strain through fine metal sieve; saving the berries. Be careful and not eat the whole bowl full of these beauties; great on vanilla ice cream with a splash of the liqueur.
  9. Pour liqueur into glass jars and store in airtight container. To ship this for gifts; I put it into these bottles with a tight seal and then wrapped the top and seals with clear plastic strapping tape just to be safe!
  10. We put some of the berries into a champagne flute and combine Spanish Cava with the liqueur for a gorgeous holiday cocktail.
  11. Time does not include the 3 weeks for 'brewing.'
To Make the Cocktail:
  1. Pour the cranberry liqueur into chilled champagne glasses; top with your choice of chilled sparkling wine.
Notes
I found the bottles I used the first year I did this at The Container Store; I've since seen them at World Market too.

Amanda is a friend on Twitter who lives in Australia and she wanted to make this recipe. We might take cranberries for granted in the states; the majority of the world production of berries is from bogs in the US and Canada so typically they are only available as a frozen product in Australia.  She and I conferred and I thought this would come together fine with frozen cranberries. Alas, seems Australia is suffering from a frozen cranberry shortage (Oh NO!!) so it was time to punt. She made her batch using dried cranberries and I wanted to share that link with you if you find yourself in her shoes. For a version using dried cranberries, please visit Amanda’s blog, Lambs Ear and Honey…tell her Barb sent you. :)  And cheers Amanda!

In keeping with my nature to make fun of my beginning efforts at photography, I present you with another ‘original’ photo. Not just old but the day I bottled, packaged and shipped off to places all over the country for family. I think that bottle on the right was full at first but the stress of the day got to me; thank goodness for a nip every now and then! (I’m kidding. I think.)

For more cocktails and the occasional appetizer too, visit our Friday Cocktails section!

Comments

  1. Marilyn says

    what is the yield (in cc’s or ounces) from one recipe? I want to make a total of 1 gallon to give as gifts. It would really help if I knew from the start how much of each ingredient I would need.
    Thank you so much!

    • Creative Culinary says

      I don’t have an exact measure Marilyn but I just added the quantities in the recipe and figure that the end output would be a bit more than a quart per recipe. Since a gallon has four quarts I would estimate you would have to quadruple the ingredients to make sure you had a gallon.

  2. Anne says

    Making this, even as I type. specialtybottles.com carries a very reasonable range of bottles for bottling these special gifts. I’m trying them this year.

    • Creative Culinary says

      I know…they have saved me a fortune as I used to buy at Crate and Barrel or Cost Plus and the stupid bottles were the priciest part of the gift! I hope you love it too; it’s a gorgeous liqueur.

  3. Skye says

    Well, the results are in! :-) The family and friends loved the cranberry liqueur and are already “hinting” that they would be open to receiving more for Holidays 2013. I did make a second batch and added a couple of cinnamon sticks while it was infusing. That was quite nice as well. Thank you Barbara for helping me be one step ahead for 2013! :)

    • Creative Culinary says

      So good to hear…I know I love it! It is simply the prettiest liqueur ever and doesn’t hurt that it tastes so good either does it. Here’s to 2013!

  4. says

    Barb, you are a genius! I recently embarked on a slivovitz adventure and a vanilla bean extract adventure and happen to have a bag of frozen cranberries and an extra bottle on my counter that could easily accomodate another flavored vodka project. I’m glad this works with frozen cranberries. Thanks so much for sharing. Wishing you happy holidays! :)

    • Creative Culinary says

      You are too sweet but I’ll take it! This is so easy and so good; not to mention SO beautiful! Hope you love it like we do. All I know is I got bottles back from gift baskets in the hopes they would be refilled…that says something huh? :)

    • Creative Culinary says

      I have not but I would in a heartbeat…maybe substituting lemon juice for the OJ? I’ll have to try it!

    • Creative Culinary says

      Mary,

      Somehow I missed your comment in December on the cranberry liqueur of mine that you made and what a pleasant surprise to read it now; so very happy you enjoyed it as much as we do. Cheers!

  5. says

    Seems to be something of a cranberry crisis here in Australia this Christmas & frozen cranberries are just not available. I’ve used the whole dried ones and they seem to have worked out well – with huge thanks to Barbara for her suggestions & support.
    Merry Christmas from down under!
    Amanda Most Recent Post: Christmas cheer – Cranberry Liqueur

    • Creative Culinary says

      Not awful at all; the more time, the more the vodka mellows but I assure you; it has been tasted early and it is fine! Enjoy.

  6. says

    Bugger – kicking myself! Wish I’d looked more closely at this recipe a week ago. I wanted to make it for gifts, but now don’t have enough time. Fresh cranberries a bit like hens teeth here in Oz. How would dried go, do you think?

  7. says

    I totally made this for Christmas gifts last year. It’s so funny, as now we’re part of the recipe swap group (and twitter friends) and it’s all coming together now. I love this recipe, and definitely drank my fair share of this liqueur with champagne last year! It was SUCH a good Christmas gift, so thank you for the idea…I’m loving the updated photos and cocktail recipe.

  8. says

    Oh, I love cranberry, and I love champagne. I must make this! Unfortunately, I’m a bit late for gifts I need this year, so my first try will just have to be for me only. (That will be tough, but I’ll make do.) Everyone else in 2012…

  9. Carolyn says

    I am going to be making this tomorrow!!!! What a neat idea! I have extra cranberries from Thanksgiving and we have a Christmas party coming up in a few weeks so this will be perfect!

    • Creative Culinary says

      Perfect! Funny I just added this recipe to my list for using Thanksgiving ‘leftovers’ thinking someone might have cranberries to use but thought it might be a stretch. Guess not! Make sure to come back and let me know how it turns out; it is the most gorgeous liqueur…a bonus that I love the taste!

  10. Katie says

    I think I am most definitely going to make this over the weekend. A quick question though…How much will this make? I’m just trying to figure out what to store it for the 3 weeks. Also, I live in Illinois and I’m sure we’ll have freezing temps over the next few weeks (sooo not ready for that, but not much I can do about it!). If I store it in the garage, will this freeze or will the vodka prevent that?

    • Creative Culinary says

      One recipe makes about 4 cups of finished product. The batch in my photo? I’ve probably quadrupled that because I give this as gifts. Or because I like to drink it? Both!

      I put mine in the garage and I’m in Denver. No matter how cold it gets outside it never freezes there and as you indicate, the alcohol in the mix raises the freezing point as well. I think you should be fine. Just remember to go stir it every day or so…and enjoy!

  11. Heather in Nola says

    Well..I made this today! Found slightly different bottles as World Market (thanks!) and went to town. I doubled the recipe (we are in New Orleans) and crossed my fingers that it turns out as beautiful as yours. Only 3 weeks to go! Thank you for sharing..this is right up my alley!

    Heather

    • Creative Culinary says

      Yay! I’m sure it will Heather; hope you’ll take a pic after you bottle yours. You know what’s killer? Those vodka soaked berries after it’s all done. Amazing. You should sample every now and then; it’s interesting to see how both the vodka mellows and the depth of flavor builds. So excited you tried it!

      • Heather in Nola says

        Today is bottling day! I’m so excited. I have been sampling along the way and you’re right..the vodka mellowed so much! I’ve spread the word about my “project” to family and friends and they are happily awaiting the results. I’ll snap a finished photo. :) thank you again for this recipe!

        Happy holidays,
        Heather

        • Creative Culinary says

          So glad to hear of your good results Heather. The truth is it can be used immediately…but that time spent aging, like the making of any liquor just adds so much to the end results. Hope your family loves it and I would LOVE a photo; please don’t forget!

  12. says

    What a very cool recipe and am I ever glad you shared it again! I have just enough time to make this for the Christmas holidays and I know plenty of people that would love a drop or two. We love the Cava and Prosecco here too. Bubbles are good anyway they come!
    Now, to find some cool bottles. No World Market or Container stores here…*sigh*
    Móna Wise Most Recent Post: By: WiseMóna

    • Creative Culinary says

      YAY!! I’ve been thinking I need to save bottles and the best ones would be olive oil or vinegar bottles…not as large as wine bottles (I would have to start this process and make gallons to fill enough of those) but still with a nice shape. The bottles are the priciest part of the gift; I need a ‘renewable’ resource of my own.

    • Creative Culinary says

      It’s easy to make it look easy simply because it really is easy! That’s the magical part; I do hope you try it and be sure to let me know; we’ll sip one together!

    • Creative Culinary says

      You have plenty of time or I should say just about enough time. I might sneak a sip a bit early but the longer it can age, the better it gets. Then it will disappear. And you are most welcome; I love the sharing…only hope that readers enjoy it too.

    • Creative Culinary says

      I do think they do Liren! Now if I could only figure out how to give them a nudge to give me the bottles back if they want refills. :)

      • Mary says

        My husband and I make brandy from fruits on our trees and any fruit I can barter for at the farmers market all summer, and we have our friends trained…if they want more, they have to bring the bottles back!! We actually end up getting boxes of different bottles from some of them, LOL!!

        I am going to try your cranberry liqueur next winter, it sounds wonderful, and a great gift for the holidays.

        • Creative Culinary says

          Smart friends you have. This past year I resorted to using plain old Ball jars…the cost of the bottles were just too much and most everyone was just getting a refill anyhow.

          Oh to have some of my own fruit trees. I want to try so much more and brandy is on that list. Blackberry and peach to start and from there…well, first the room addition to store the results. :)

    • Creative Culinary says

      Thanks Andrea…I sort of enjoy seeing some before (When I hadn’t a clue about what I was doing) and after (when I still need to learn so much more). Hope you have a good holiday too and are still my friend after seeing the Driscolls post. Yes, I included the shot of our ‘tweetup.’

  13. says

    I am in love with these delicious gift ideas. I was set on trying the coffee liqueur and now I may need to try this gorgeous cranberry liqueur first. Your photos are amazing. The color is just beautiful. I even like the older photo (cute bottles!:)
    Lora ~ cakeduchess Most Recent Post: Vegan Maple Pumpkin Pie

    • Creative Culinary says

      Nothing wrong with both of them, right? You are too sweet but I can’t get rid of the old photos…I will forever see that first photo and remember the frenzy of that day. In a good, holiday spirit sort of way!

    • Creative Culinary says

      I agree…beside the old adage ‘if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck’ applies. This looks and tastes like champagne so champagne it is!

    • Creative Culinary says

      I say do them both Jen. The cranberry is so seasonal and good I couldn’t not make it but I wanted to give out something different this year. Double batches of both? Less than two bottles of vodka!

  14. says

    I love the ease of this recipe (‘cept the 3 week brewing time LOL) and I love your gift bottles, very cute. I was just thinking, perhaps people can ask at their local wine and beer brewing places to bottle their home-made liqueurs there? You could purchase the wine bottles directly from them (jumbo size gift!) and then for a small fee they may let you cork them on-site using their equipment. Just a thought.
    Paula Most Recent Post: Gingerbread Christmas Cookie Wreath

    • Creative Culinary says

      Heck I’ve got plenty of wine bottles I could use…but I would have to increase my brewing capacity…these smaller bottle are a good size. I need more of a flask size booze bottle. Hmm, now wondering where I could find those beyond checking the side of the road. :)

  15. says

    I told you I was going to make this as soon as I replenish our ever diminishing supply of vodka:) What else can I do with all those cranberries I collected from the neighboring bog (kidding, but they are so available and cheap now:)
    You have come a long way since those early photos! Congratulations!

    • Creative Culinary says

      Not cheap enough for me…heading to Costco today to get a bushel. I love them that much! And thanks Lana…I don’t even want to think of the money and time it’s taken but as long as the results are evidence of growth, I’m OK with that. I really enjoy the photography; more so now that the injury I suffered in early 2010 doesn’t limit me so much. There was a time when I was lucky to be able to stand on that bad leg for 2 minutes…that did not bode well for most of my pics!

    • Creative Culinary says

      The color is gorgeous isn’t it. Well, with the right camera settings. Once I get some done enuf to make a cocktail that original pic is going to be relegated to the bottom as an example of a ‘before.’

    • Creative Culinary says

      It is so good Jamie and takes all of about 10 minutes to put together. I want to do limoncello but it is so time consuming; having to peel all those lemons. I’ll do cranberries, thanks you very much!

    • Creative Culinary says

      They are so easy…publishing coffee liqueur this Friday; it’s a winner too. Would love to hear about what you’ve made.

  16. says

    I just started some cranberry liqueur and can’t wait to taste it in 3 weeks … this would have been lovely to share at Thanksgiving … oh well…. Christmas is just around the corner! I’m going to keep my eyes open for some pretty bottles so I can give some as gifts to some lucky friends! :-)

    • Creative Culinary says

      You might be able to sneak some out before then. The longer you wait and the longer the vodka ages, the more mellow the flavors become.

    • Creative Culinary says

      I got my bottles in previous years for bottling the cranberry liqueur at The Container Store but just saw the same ones at World Market…I’m sure they were cheaper there. Lucky friends indeed.

    • Creative Culinary says

      Just finished my batch of the cranberry liqueur for this year and made coffee liqueur yesterday. What do you make?

    • says

      Well, I just happen to have some I did not refrigerate and I just tasted it and it’s fine. The combination of alcohol and acid from the fruits makes for a natural preservative. So..suggest keeping cold but that little bit I have leftover is from last year at this same time. Best gift ever!

  17. Kate says

    Hi Denver Wine Girl–I’m in Denver too! I was just at the Sunflower on 38th yesterday and they had plenty of fresh cranberries!

  18. Jess E says

    loving this idea. i know this post is a year old, but it was just highlighted on thekitchn, so expect some comments! any idea where i can buy bottles like that? thanks!

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