One of my favorite things about this time of year is festive libations. For a few years, I’ve made a hobby of liqueur and infused liquor making and November – January brings a challenge: cranberry liqueur. Sometimes my cranberry liqueur was too tart, too sweet, too much like Robitussin, and sometimes okay. This year, I think I cracked the cranberry liqueur code! Here’s the recipe…
- zest of 6 oranges
- zest of 3 limes
- 18 oz fresh cranberries
- 3 cinnamon sticks, crushed (Ziploc bag + a rubber mallet works great!)
- 6 whole allspice, crushed (Ziploc bag + a rubber mallet works great!)
- 750 mL vodka (Svedka works & is a bargain)
- 1/2 cup sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi works & is a bargain)
- brown sugar simple syrup (1.5 cups brown sugar + 1.5 cups hot water)
- 1/2 gallon mason jar
- cheese cloth
- wire mesh strainer (like this)
- coffee filters (flat bottom for a 8-12 cup coffee maker)
- mixing bowls
- flat cheese grader / zester
- blender or food processor
- hand towel
- Netflix and zest. That’s not a euphemism. Zesting this much citrus, being careful not to include mad pith, may require a Netflix binge to pass the time. Place your hard-won zest in the mason jar.
- In batches, chop cranberries in a blender or food processor adding just a bit of water and transfer batches to the mason jar.
- Put the cinnamon and allspice in a Ziploc bag, close securely, and wrap the bag in hand towel. Imagine smashing the patriarchy and crush those spices! Place the spices in the mason jar.
- To the mason jar, add the vodka and sweet vermouth. Secure the lid and give it a good shake. Place the jar in a dark place (cabinet, closet, etc.) and let sit for 3 – 5 days. Optional: give the jar a good shake once a day.
Ah, straining and filtering. In Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits by Andrew Schloss, the repeated filtering directive is as follows: “Strain the mixture with a mesh strainer into a clean quart jar. Do not push on the solids to extract more liquid.” The author explains that getting more liqueur by squeezing the solids isn’t worth a cloudy liqueur. Well… I’m not loosing liqueur. Here’s what I do…
- First, I do a bulk strain by lining the mesh strainer with plenty of cheese cloth and drain the mason’s jar contents through the lined strainer. After the liquid runs through, I wrap the cheese cloth around the bulk solids and squeeze to get as much yummy liqueur out as I can. Depending on the liqueur recipe, this squeeze step can get me another 100-200 mL of liqueur. After I have gotten the last drop, the whole cheese cloth wrapped bundle either goes in the trash or the solids get used in some way. Solids use suggestion: heat up the drunk cranberries in a sauce span and pour over ice cream or angel food cake. Careful of the cinnamon stick bits!
- Schloss is right – your liqueur will probably be cloudy. I clear-up the cloudiness with filtration using coffee filters. After rinsing the wire mesh strainer, I line it with a coffee filter and begin filtering the liqueur in batches into another bowl (see picture below). This does take patience – it may take hours to filter. I’ve left liqueurs filtering while at work, asleep, Netflixin’ and chillin’, at the gym… you get the picture. If a filter gets clogged, I’ll pour off the liqueur into another bowl, put in a new filter, and start fresh.
Enjoy! Here are a few cocktail suggestions:
- 1/2 oz – 1 oz of liquor + sparkling wine
- 1 – 1.5 oz of liquor in a hot mug of apple cider
- 1 oz liquor + 4 oz ginger beer or ginger ale
- Make a Cosmopolitan, substituting this cranberry liqueur for the total volume of cranberry juice & simple syrup.
Featured image from incognu.com