‘Tis the season for spiced cranberry liqueur

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
  • water

Liqueur prep:

  1. 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.
  2. In batches, chop cranberries in a blender or food processor adding just a bit of water and transfer batches to the mason jar.
  3. Put the cinnamon and allspice in a Ziploc bag, close securely, and wrap the bag in hand towel. Imagine mashing the patriarchy and crush those spices! Place the spices in the mason jar.
  4. 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.


Liqueur filtering:

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…

  1. 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!
  2. 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


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DrRubidium is an analytical chemist that spends her days finding needles in needlestacks. Also a science communicator, she focuses on the the science behind everyday stuff and pop culture.

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