Cranberry Drink Reviews

Festive Cranberry Drinks for the holidays.

Festive Cranberry Drinks for the holidays. From left to right: Hot Buttered Cranberry Punch, Hot Buttered Rum Mix in cranberry juice, Cranberry Spritzer and Berry Little Mocktail.

Cranberries are a common ingredient around Christmas, and cranberry punch is something I remember being offered at many a family gathering. There is something festive about imbibing red tart beverages in punch glasses or for super special occasions even the kids got to sip out of wine glasses filled with sparkling cranberry juice.

In looking up virgin cranberry drinks, I found a plethora of recipes calling for a blend of orange and cranberry juice, a pairing that is tasty and often used. So this christmas I wanted to try something new, something that changed up the family cranberry drink and found some interesting options online.

Cranberry Spritzer Review

Martha Stewart pairs white cranberry juice with blackberry purée to create a cranberry spritzer that is dark and elegant.

I was curious as to why this drink uses white cranberry juice. According to LiveStrong.com white cranberry juice is less tart in taste.

We tried this recipe and found it light and just slightly sweet. The cranberry is more subtle than expected, coming in as the undertone of the drink, while the blackberry purée adds the colour and was the first flavour I noticed (this may be because the puree has a tendency to float a bit on the drink). The addition of sparkling water (or we used soda water) made the drink just slightly bubbly, but not like pop.

You can find the recipe here.

My Thoughts:

I picked up a pint of rather expensive blackberries to make the purée, and cut the recipe in half to make the purée stretch further ( it would have made about 6 drinks at full size). The process of creating the purée wasn’t difficult but did create a lot of waste (seeds and pulp). This is definitely a special occasion drink, and not a cheap choice especially in winter when berries are not in season.

Hot Buttered Cranberry Punch

Last Christmas I received a gift of hot buttered rum mix which we enjoyed with the accompanying rum, and for those who didn’t drink we made up an apple juice version of the drink so they could enjoy the hot spiced beverage with the rest of us. Because the drink is strong, the mix lasted me almost all year.

In looking for interesting cranberry recipes, I came across this hot buttered cranberry option that uses a similar spice combination, and mixes this with cranberry jelly and pineapple juice. I was intrigued. Unlike the buttered rum recipe the spices, sugar and juices are heated for two hours to blend the spices then served with a pat of butter floating on the hot drink. You can find the recipe here.

Hot Buttered Rum Mix in Cranberry Juice

I decided to mix up a batch of the original hot buttered rum mix and compare the flavour by adding a tablespoon of this to some hot cranberry and pineapple juice. The recipe for the hot buttered rum  mix can be found here.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 4 cups cranberry juice
  • 3 tbsp hot buttered rum mix (recipe here)

Procedure:

Heat juice in sauce pan until steaming, add rum mix either to full amount or by tsp to each cup as you serve. Stir and enjoy.

My Thoughts:

The mix of cranberry jelly, pineapple juice and spices simmered for a couple hours created a very thick tasting drink, rich but without the brightness I expected from the juice. Perhaps the heating over time has something to do with that, but the result is far from the hot buttered rum that I enjoyed last Christmas.

In comparison, using hot buttered rum mix stirred into heated cranberry and pineapple juice (1:1),came much closer to the taste I remembered, the drink was flavourful and bright with a hint of tartness. This was the drink that my family preferred of the two hot buttered recipes, and in my opinion the two hours of mulling was not worth the wait.

Berry Little Mocktail

Lastly for this christmas I wanted to try a virgin take on another Martha Stewart recipe, this one that originally calls for grapefruit vodka and champagne, black currant juice along with red cranberry juice. I had originally started to make this recipe back at thanksgiving, getting my cranberry garnishes all ready, but was unable to find black currant juice locally.

As a small Christmas miracle black currant juice, or concentrate showed up in our store, and I could try out my experiment. Since vodka has no flavour, I simply substituted ruby red grapefruit juice for that element, and used club soda for the sparkle and fizz instead of champagne. I could have used sprite or gingerale but didn’t want to add any other flavours that were not in the original to get the closest to Martha’s recipe. You can find the original here.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 oz grapefruit juice
  • 2 oz club soda
  • 1 oz red cranberry juice
  • 1 oz black currant concentrate
Procedure:

In saucepan on medium heat dissolve sugar in water. Add berries and simmer 5 minutes until softened and skins split. Drain, discarding liquid and freeze berries for at least two hours.

Chill juices. Mix juices in cocktail shaker and pour into tall glass. Add soda water and garnish with a cocktail stick strung with candied cranberries.

My Thoughts:

I found that this recipe was pretty mild and that the black current juice didn’t really lend much to the table when diluted according to the label. So I tried it again, but with the black currant concentrate (I used Ribena) undiluted and the result was a more interesting and created a better blend of berry flavours. Without the kick of the alcohol this drink is still pretty mild.  I would like to revisit this again when I can get a hold of some grapefruit or citrus bitters, as I think it may add just that necessary touch to refine the virgin option of this drink.

That being said, my kids enjoyed the drink and my eldest daughter asked if she could finish up the glass.

Ratings for the virgin attempt to make this drink? See below!

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 3/5 Mild flavour, needs something to add kick.
Simplicity: 5/5
Ingredient finding: 5/5 all ingredients locally available at this time of year!

Blackberry Peppercorn Lemonade Review

Black Pepper Syrup gives quite a kick to this virgin cocktail.

Black Pepper Syrup gives quite a kick to this virgin cocktail.

In creating drinks without the kick of alcoholic beverages, finding alternate ingredients to add the interest becomes part of the fun and challenge for mixologists.

Black pepper syrup is an intriguing idea – sweet but with a heat and a hint of acidy and a brilliant flavour complex. There are many recipes online for this syrup, generally recommending a combination of cracked and whole peppercorns along with water and sugar. The cracked peppercorns deliver more heat, while the whole fruit provides a more mellow and rich flavour complex. In drink mixing this syrup often is paired with grapefruit, citrus and/or berries, are added to martinis for added heat.

(If you are interested in the recipe for the syrup I will be using check my blog here where I use it in a snake venom shooter I created over halloween.)

When looking up virgin drinks, I found two that paired blackberries with peppercorn syrup and added lemon to round out the flavours. Our family tested both.

Black and Blue Lemonade

This first recipe from FoodRepublic has all the makings of a great summer drink. The combination of black pepper syrup, fresh berries, lemons and a hint of basil for additional interest are all seasonal —especially up north — and more likely to be found in the summer months. The drink calls for muddling fresh basil, blackberries in the syrup and adding to a combination of 2 parts lemon juice to 1 part soda water. This drink is a very fresh and bright tasting with a serious kick from the lemons and peppercorns. You can find the recipe here.

Black Pepper Lemonade

Dole foods promotes their frozen products with a lemonade using frozen blackberries. This is a great option for a drink that can be made all season. The recipe is simple, also using fresh lemon juice, black pepper syrup and blackberries muddled in a glass, strained and poured over ice. This is in my opinion more of a martini as the drink is left concentrated, but they recommend serving it over ice, which will help to dilute the taste. As an added interest, the recipe calls for a salt and pepper rimmer. You can find the entire recipe with the syrup they used, the rimmer and the drink here.
My Thoughts:
My family found the Black Pepper Lemonade sweeter and more flavourful than the the more earthy Black and Blue Lemonade. However the pepper is very prominent and we cut the recipe by half for the kids. The Salt & Pepper Rimmer was not popular amongst the younger crowd either, but as someone who adores peppercorn encrusted steak and tenderloin, the addition made the drink all that more spectacular. On a hot summer day though, I can see choosing the more subtle, tart and complex flavour of the Black and Blue Lemonade to quench my thirst, the brightness of the fresh ingredients and the fizz of the soda are a combination that is hard to resist.
At the end of the day our family voted. Black Pepper Lemonade came out victorious.
Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 4/5 
preferred the non fizzy drink
Simplicity: 4/4 
for the Black Pepper Lemonade which was simpler to create
Ingredient finding: 3/5 
Blackberries (fresh and frozen) and basil are not commonly found all year locally.