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!

An Apple a Day…

Fall Apple Cocktails

Fall Apple Cocktails. From left to right: Sweet Orchard, Apple Ginger Sparkler, Caramel Apple-disiac, Apple Temple, Apple Lemon Fizz and Apple Pie Shooter.

Today was the day to start my first set of experiments – apple drinks. All the prep work was out of the way, all my ingredients laid before me. The ham and baked potato was in the oven, the potatoes peeled and ready to cook.

The Sweet Orchard

First on my list: something called The Orchard from Saveur which would use two of my new infusions. Pulling out the Apple Jack Syrup Infusion and All Spice Dram Infusion, grabbing a lemon and a rather expensive bottle of maple syrup (yep more sugar, you can see where this is going) I mixed up the first tester and just to be scientific… the original recipe (gotta know what your aiming for).  WoW! Sweet like eating candy!! And instant sugar rush. Ok, so I can work with this, the trick is how to cut the sweetness without diluting the taste – which was splendid. The original does this with the … you guessed it… booze.

After some research I discovered that the mixologist secret for a sweet drink is bitters. Well that’s great, except these are hard to come by and also booze. What do to… more research of course! And a solution, cider vinegar. Testing this on my two kids proved to be successful, the drink maintained their required sweetness but added a bit of brightness and that bitter taste that helps cut the sweet just enough to make the drink come alive.

Ingredients:
  • 2 oz applejack syrup
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz maple syup
  • 1/2 oz all spice dram infusion
  • 6 drops apple cider vinegar
Procedure:

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake well to break up syrups. Strain into a glass and serve.

My Thoughts:

When I offered this to my kids the first thing they said was “can you make this again, lots?” As far as simplicity, once you have the two specialty ingredients made up, it’s a cinch.

While this is a wonderful recipe, it’s more of a sipper due to it’s sweetness. Consider this a desert drink, maybe with some wonderful cheese.

Kid-o-metre 5/5. My kids can’t get enough
Taste: 4/5 very sweet so not for everyone
Simplicity: 3/5. Two special ingredients to make for the recipe but then easy to make
Ingredient finding: 4/5 All spice berries not available locally here, had to get from out of town.

Here are the recipes for the two specialty syrups. For more details see my previous blog.


 Apple Jack Syrup

2 cups green apples, peeled and chopped really thin
3 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cup sugar

Dissolve sugar in water, add apples and simmer until tender about 10 minutes. Apples should become translucent. Add cinnamon and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into mason jar, add 2 tablespoons brandy extract and let cool completely before sealing and storing. Let sit overnight or as long as you want in fridge.

All spice dram infusion

2 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup all spice berries
1 cinnamon stick
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons imitation rum.

Boil water and spices and simmer 10 minutes. Let steep half hour. Strain and add sugar. Heat to dissolve sugar, remove from heat and add rum extract. Cool and store in fridge until needed.


Next to tackle – another drink that required some form of bitters. Since this was not something I had originally prepped, back to the research and the grocery store for the most bitter of citrus: Grapefruit.

Most bitters involve some form of bitter herb as well as some flavouring agent. I chose to pair the flavour and bitterness of grapefruit peel with the essence of thyme and a touch of lemon and vinegar for some bite. The results turned out perfect and the recipe is a snap to make.

Thyme and Citrus Bitters

Ingredients:
  • 1 lemon – zested and juiced
  • 1 grapefruit – peeled and half it’s flesh
  • 2 oz apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dried Thyme
Procedure:

Zest and juice lemon into blender, cut skins off grapefruit, chop coarsely and put in blender with half of grapefruit flesh, add remaining ingredients and pulse until blended. Turn to high speed and pluse a few times more.

Pour into storage container (plastic is fine) and refrigerate overnight. Next day, strain with a fine wire mesh strainer into a bowl and discard pulp. Keep liquid refridgerated until use.

The Apple Temple

The original for this next drink comes from Bonappetit. Known as the fall classic, this martini used bourbon and brandy for it’s kick. In order to create something new and exciting without simply being another sparkling apple cider I added a splash of grenadine, and worked with as many fresh flavours as I could.

The result is not a perfect replica of the original, but hints at some of the flavour components, while being available for any palate.

Ingredients:
  • 1 oz applejack syrup infusion
  • 1 oz fresh apple sour (see below)
  • 1 oz fresh apple cider
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp thyme and citrus bitters
  • 2 oz club soda
  • splash of grenadine
Procedure:

Measure first 5 ingredients into a cocktail glass. Add ice and shake well to blend flavours and chill the drink. Rim a chilled champagne glass with sugar. Pour cocktail into glass and add soda water to top up. Add a splash of grenadine just before serving, and let it sink to the bottom for effect.

My thoughts:

This is lovely and refreshing, the thyme and citrus add a nice touch but the grenadine may not work with this flavour complex. Alternates would be to make a red apple syrup and use that to keep the flavours more pure.

Kid-o-metre 4/5 sweet enough for kids to love
Taste: 4/5 grenadine not best option for colour
Simplicity: 3/5. Three special ingredients to make for the recipe
Ingredient finding: 5/5 everything available in a small northern town with only one store


Apple Sour Recipe
4 green tart apples
2 oz lemon juice (bottled is fine for this)

Quarter the apples, with skins on, cut out the cores and chop into thumb size bits. Fill blender with apples and add lemon juice. Start blender on lowest setting, chop by pulsing until apples are finely chopped. Turn to next setting and blend until the apples are moving freely through the blades without help. Increase speed and continue until you get to top speed and the apples are pulp. Pour apples into strainer over the bowl, and use the back of your wooden spoon to push and squeeze all juice out of the pulp.


 Caramel Apple-Disiac

This recipe proved to be the most challenging to get close to the original four at cosmopolitan.com. When creating a coffee liqueur replacement, the concentration of coffee per tbsp of syrup becomes double what would be found in the most common coffee liqueurs. So, when I created this recipe using the same concentrations of each ingredient and compared it to the original I found the taste of coffee in the virgin drink too overpowering – you couldn’t taste the apple at all.

In altering the recipe, it soon became apparent that additional ingredients would be required to add depth and richness. After about 6 tries, I finally came up with something that is very close to the original in flavour, but milder in kick.

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp coffee syrup (see below)
  • 2 oz fresh apple sour (see above)
  • 1 tbsp apple juice concentrate (undiluted from frozen)
  • 1 oz carmel syrup (see below)
  • 2 oz fresh apple cider
  • 6 drops apple cider vinegar
  • 1 oz cream
 Procedure:

Measure all ingredients into cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with a slice of apple if desired.

My Thoughts:

This is an acquired taste. With the addition of carmel and decrease in amount of coffee flavour, my non coffee non drinker husband found the drink more enjoyable and finished the glass. My kids however do not like this, due to the richness of the flavours.

I made this for a few relatives this thanksgiving at dinner – one thought there was banana in the drink due to the way the flavours mix. She said “I taste about five things at once in the first sip”. Do these flavous work together, the veridic is still out with my family.

Kid-o-metre 0/5. Definitely an adult taste complex
Taste: 3/5 as not everyone will love this.
Simplicity: 1/5. Three special ingredients to make for the recipe
Ingredient finding: 5/5 everything available in a small northern town with only one store


Coffee Syrup Recipe

2 cups strong coffee
1 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp vanilla

Heat coffee and sugar in sauce pan until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Bottle and keep in cool place until needed.

Caramel Syrup

2 cups white sugar
1 cup boiling water

Boil water and have measured and ready. Heat sugar in sauce pan on medium heat stirring regularly. When sugar starts to melt it will caramelize, keep stirring just until sugar is almost all melted. Remove from heat and carefully pour in hot water. The sugar will sizzle and pop from the water and the results will be a ball of toffee and some caramel tasting water, don’t worry. Return to heat and dissolve toffee sugar in water until the results are a thick dark rich syrup.

IMPORTANT: Hot melted sugar will keep on cooking and burn quickly if you don’t work quick, don’t let the sugar start to boil and bubble this means it’s burning. YEP, this took me two tries to get it right.


Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry, choose one drink and enjoy. Then when your ready, try another. This is the first three apple options I created this holiday season – and the most difficult. My next blog will be the other three : Apple Pie Shooter (virgin), Apple Lemon Fizz and Apple Ginger Spritzer.

Stay Tuned!