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.
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.