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!

Test Tube Shooters

Three Halloween Test Tube Shooters. From left to right: Snake Venom, Beetle Juice & Dragon's Breath.

Three Halloween Test Tube Shooters. From left to right: Snake Venom, Beetle Juice & Dragon’s Breath.

Halloween approaches. In a week my two girls will be out in full costume knocking on doors and filling their bag with loot.

For our family, halloween is about the dressing up and the spooky setting, about the fun of carving pumpkins and creativity.  Our decor is based on real scary things: spiders, snakes and scarecrows and later closer to halloween, jack-o’-lanterns and if possible the fog machine going just outside the door.

Being a mom of two girls has meant keeping the spooky and terrifying at bay, or be plagued with two small children with nightmares for weeks. Now that my eldest is maturing, she is able to differentiate real from imaginary, and is finding the world of myth and folklore fascinating. My youngest is asking for stories of elves, fairies, dragons and unicorns, and I am now the creator of magical tales in our home that both children are waiting to hear before bed.

So for my first venture into Halloween drink making – I have chosen to blend a little of the real with a little of the imagined in these three test tube shooters.

Snake Venom

The idea came to make a snake venom as I was working through scary liquids commonly held in test tubes. In chatting with my local pharmacist and friend, she tells me that snake venom is actually being used now in medicine! I can’t say that my beverage will have any healing effects – but it does have a bite.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 oz Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (preferably yellow)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice (bottled)
  • 1/4 oz caramel syrup
  • 1/2 oz black pepper syrup (recipe below)
Procedure:

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail mixer with a few ice cubes. Shake well and strain into two 1 oz shot glasses or test tubes. Makes two 1 oz shots.

My Thoughts:

My eldest daughter, niece and I love this drink. It is spicy, sour, bitter and sweet all at once. My youngest daughter isn’t sure what to think of it, and while my husband was willing to try it his comment was ” I wouldn’t choose it”.

Kid-o-metre 3/5 older kid drink
Taste: 4/5 
gotta love sweet and sour to like this
Simplicity: 4/5  
Two recipes to make, one that takes a little time.
Ingredient finding: 4/5 
may not find yellow grapefruit, depends on season


Black Pepper Syrup

I originally found this recipe when working through blackberry lemonade options online. (Someday I’ll tell you all about that! Dole foods provided me with the recipe) This syrup recipe is pretty easy and super versatile. Because the sweet and spicy blend upon cooking, having this pre made is essential if you wish to add a peppery flavour to a sweet drink.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup black pepper corns – cracked
2 cups water
2 cups white sugar

Smash black pepper in a ziplock bag and add to pot with water and sugar. Bring to a simmer on medium high heat until all the sugar is resolved and for about 5 minutes more. Allow to cool and strain into a air tight container. Keep in fridge until use.

My Thoughts:

the original recipe called for toasting the pepper corns before infusing them in the syrup. I had mixed peppercorns – red, green and black – and chose to leave them plain. I don’t know what the flavour would be like toasted, possibly darker? Next time I need some of this I will test that theory, but the plain version seems to work well for now.


Dragon’s Breath

This was inspired by my youngest, as we wandered through the grocery isles wasting time before a job interview. Being that she’s huge into fairy creatures, and we had recently watched Shrek 3 for a “movie dinner night”, she suggested making a spicy drink. Originally she had hoped the drink would be called Dragon’s acid, however I pointed out that most dragon’s have hot breath – and this became acceptable.

Coming up with the perfect drink for this became a challenge. Originally I purchased tomato juice, limes and jalepeno peppers, but my non spicy husband and kids made me start searching for alternatives. Being an Epicure fan, I immediately started searching for my red pepper jelly, and came across a secret stash of my friends habanero jelly, gifted to me almost a year ago.

So with that as the starting point, I went back to the research to come up with fruits that paired with this ingredient. What I found was many ideas, all based on jellies, salsa and sauces. No prob! I can adapt that to a drink – sez I! So back to the kitchen, and to the fridge to pull out bottles of juice, specialty syrups and frozen juices I created earlier.

In order to come up with the best combo I tried a number of ideas – mint, grapefruit and jelly; garlic, tomato juice, lime and jelly; cranberry, honey, sour mix and jelly; and finally raspberries. Of all the combos my family and my spicy loving in-laws tried, this is the one that rocked it!

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 oz raspberry juice (recipe below) or store bought
  • 1/2 oz black pepper syrup
  • 1 tsp red habanero pepper jelly
  • 1 1/2 oz chopped fresh sweet red bell peppers
Procedure:

Muddle pepper syrup, red pepper jelly and fresh bell peppers in bottom of a cocktail mixer. Add 4-5 ice cubes and shake well. Add raspberry juice and shake to blend flavours. Strain into two shot glasses (1 oz each) or test tubes.

My thoughts:

Normally raspberry juice is so strong that it needs sweet to mellow it out. Incredibly enough, spicy will also do the trick! Who knew!

Can’t wait to unleash this on my daughters, who were both in bed by the time I had this all figured out.

I made my own raspberry juice – using frozen raspberries and blending them with water. In some locations you can get red raspberry juice easily, if so and it’s tart, go for it! In my town, not a possibility. you can find the recipe below.

Kid-o-metre ?/5 will keep you posted, my niece who is a teen loved it.
Taste: 5/5 
wow even my hubby liked it!
Simplicity: 4/5  
One recipes to make. One ingredient to find.
Ingredient finding: 5/5
 Red pepper jelly can substitute, making this easy to find all the ingredients for if you have internet and a credit card.


 Raspberry Juice
Ingredients:

1 bag frozen raspberries
2 cups water
1 tbsp citric acid

Heat berries in water to boiling. Turn down and simmer 10 minutes. Strain and press to get all juice out of berries. Add citric acid and stir to mix well. Store in fridge or pour into ice cube trays and freeze for later use.


Beetle Juice

It is said that some beetles have orangish blood. Since this next drink blends the bite of habanero peppers with the sweetness of cranberry and orange, I thought the name fitting. One may say that all drinks named this should be black and white, or that if one asked three times for this shooter, some ghoulish creature will appear and make your life miserable (or is that the cat in the hat?), so if you decide you want a third dose of this great halloween shooter – maybe ask for it by it’s scientific name: Coleoptera juice.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 oz cranberry juice
  • 1/2 oz concentrated frozen orange juice
  • 1 tsp habanero jelly (the red stuff)
Procedure:

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail mixer with 2-3 ice cubes. Shake well to blend in jelly, strain into two shot glasses (1 oz each) or test tubes.

My thoughts:

Habenaro Jelly is the key ingredient in this recipe, but I can’t tell you where to buy it because I am lucky enough to have a super jelly making friend who keeps me topped up every christmas. The one jar often lasts our “non-spicy” family for the full year. There are plenty of recipes for DIY habenaro jelly, I would recommend one that keeps to simple ingredients without any added flavouring components – like on Food52 or My Pantry Shelf. Epicure makes a decent red pepper jelly, that can substitute for the real thing in a pinch.

My spice lovin’ niece and her mom both enjoyed this one. While I am not a fan of super hot flavours, this is a more gentle drink due to the sweetness of the cranberry. The spice is a slow burn that creeps up, so again if you have more than one… beware!

Kid-o-metre 3/5 older kid drink, the sweetness hits first then the spice.
Taste: 4/5 
some in my family are not fans of spicy concoctions. what are your thoughts?
Simplicity: 4/5  
If you can find the jelly, it’s a cinch to make.
Ingredient finding: 4/5 
When I find the jelly anywhere other than in my kitchen, I’ll let you know where to buy it!

Stay tuned for new halloween creations in next ten days!