This might be one of my favorite things to make for the holidays yet because I put it on my blog several years ago, it has for the most part languished in the nether world of being there but no one knowing it. As I finished 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 there 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, sugar and your choice of flavors and you’ve got your own brew. How cool is that? This favorite seasonal liqueur is simply cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, sugar and vodka. Simple ingredients but added together and given a couple of weeks to age and you’ll have something amazing to share…or squirrel away if you must!
In the past couple of years I’ve started making Homemade Cranberry Liqueur in time for Thanksgiving; it’s really perfect for the entire holiday season so you need a bit of a head start since it has to age for a couple of weeks (These cranberries were frozen from last year; I take NO chances on being able to find them in time!). I’ll store a bottle in the freezer and a small sip is the perfect after dinner drink. I save the cranberry fruit after the liqueur has been bottled and those little liquored up pieces of fruit are fantastic on top of some vanilla ice cream or pound cake with a drizzle of the liqueur.
Still, the star attraction for me is this Sparkling Cranberry Cocktail. It’s seasonal, so simple and elegant and yet from the making of the liqueur to the final cocktail, it is so easy no one would imagine you only labored for a few minutes. Perfect right?
With a touch or orange in the mix it’s such a great flavor which is sure a nice bonus when first impressions are all about how beautiful it is. 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. Today I used Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut; the dryness of the sparkling wine balances so nicely with the sweetness of the liqueur.
Handmade Cranberry Liqueur
- 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 & 1/2 oz Cranberry Liqueur, chilled
- 4 oz Champagne, Cava or Prosecco, chilled
- 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.
- Add cranberries, orange juice and orange rind.
- Remove syrup mixture from heat and cool slightly.
- Add mixture to Cuisinart and chop just slightly to open up berries; cool completely.
- Add vodka and mix thoroughly.
- Pour into container; glass or plastic. Cover and store in a dark, cool location for 3 weeks. (I put mine in the garage).
- Stir ingredients every couple of days.
- Once the mixture is ready, strain through fine metal sieve lined with cheesecloth (I like butter muslin; it's much finer and is sure to catch every seed); saving the berries. Be careful and not eat the whole bowl full of these beauties; they are SO good!
- Pour liqueur into glass containers.
- Time does not include the 3 weeks for 'brewing.'
To Make the Cocktail:
- Pour the cranberry liqueur into chilled champagne glasses; top with your choice of chilled sparkling wine.
1. 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 but all retail bottles get pricey if making this for gifts. Now I buy bottles from Specialty Bottle and use this style ; great size and inexpensive for gift giving.
2. Butter Muslin is used in cheese-making and is a much finer weave than regular cheesecloth. Once you strain it you can wash it and use again. I usually strain twice to insure I get rid of any sediment!
Amanda is a friend on Twitter who lives in Australia and 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!