We began experimenting with homemade liqueurs and infusions several years ago. Our first adventure was the Italian classic limoncello, which we made with both lemons and oranges (arancello), and since then we’ve made Polish krupnik and other concoctions that are now traditions for us. This year we decided to experiment with cranberries, because we look forward to cranberry season and make so many other things with cranberries. So why not a cranberry liqueur?
I started with our arancello as a point of reference and went from there. The idea is to soak the fruit in the alcohol and sweeten it enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries and bite of the alcohol. For sweetener, I chose simple syrup, and vodka or rum for the alcohol. I wanted loads of cranberry flavor and a brilliant color, so the cranberries would be the lead ingredient. And I wanted a little extra something, a little richness, so I added vanilla bean. After some research, I decided on the following ratios:
- 1 part cranberries (by weight) to 1 part alcohol (by volume)
- 2 parts cranberries to 1 part sugar
- 2 parts sugar to 1 part water
These ended up being somewhat rough, because when it came time to translate all of that into weighing and measuring, I fudged a little to make things easier.
Once I figured out all of that, the rest was easy. Make the simple syrup, puree the cranberries, stir it all together, and pour into bottles with the vanilla bean. The resting phase takes 2 to 3 weeks, then you just strain out the solids and use the infused liquid in cocktails. This is definitely a liqueur, a little on the sweet side, and good for mixing cocktails and serving with sparkling wine. If you plan to use it as a mixer with sweetened beverages such as lemon-lime sodas, you should probably reduce the sugar in the recipe.
And just in time for the holidays, little bottles of cranberry liqueur makes lovely hostess gifts, just put the liqueur into bottles with a tag and ribbon. I find cute bottles like the one in the top photo at stores such as Home Goods and Ross, or you can order online from other stores.
- 6 cups (1.050 kg) granulated sugar
- 3 cups (720 ml) water
- 3 (12-ounce/340 g) bags cranberries
- 36 ounces (1.06 L) vodka or rum
- 2 vanilla beans
- OPTIONAL FLAVOR ENHANCERS
- orange rind
- lemon rind
- cinnamon stick
- SIMPLE SYRUP - In the 3-quart pot, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat, stirring as it cooks. Don't allow it to boil, just cook long enough to dissolve, then remove from heat and allow to cool. You can make this ahead and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Rinse the cranberries well and pick through them to remove any bad berries. Puree the berries in the food processor, adding a cup or so of the simple syrup to help smooth the puree. Process in batches if necessary. Transfer the pureed berries and the rest of the simple syrup to the large mixing bowl and stir. Add the alcohol and stir.
- Cut each vanilla bean in half, then split the halves lengthwise. Place each bean half in the bottom of a mason jar, then pour in the cranberry mixture. Seal each jar and store in a cool dark place (cellar) or in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.
- Strain the cranberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Check the strained liquid to make sure it's free of floating particles, and strain again if necessary. Pour into gift bottles. The liqueur will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
3-quart heavy bottom pot with lid
large mixing bowl
6 quart mason jars with lids and bands, or other storage jars/bottles
fine mesh strainer
I have used several types of bottles for the resting period, including used wine bottles with screw caps. Just make sure any bottles and lids you use are properly cleaned.
If you want to add other flavors, shave some fresh orange or lemon rind (minus the white pith) or add a stick of cinnamon to each bottle for steeping.