You can also make a kid-friendly version of this holiday drink
Ready for some holiday cheer? So are we.
The season calls out for cranberries, of course. And bourbon is perfect for warming a long December night. Mix them both with a tangy, vinegary shrub syrup, and you have a cocktail that even Santa can’t resist. (But we know some of his elves don’t drink, so we provide instructions for a nonalcoholic version of the cocktail, too.)
Wishing you a berry merry December.
Recipe: Cranberry Shrub Cocktail with Bourbon
We’ve posted about shrubs before. Back in June we made a nonalcoholic Berry Shrub. Then we used that to make a Rum Shrub Cocktail.
To prepare a shrub drink, you need shrub syrup, which is a mixture of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Shrub syrups date back hundreds of years; they offered a handy way of preserving fruit before refrigeration came along.
Now that December has arrived, we decided to make cranberry shrub syrup. And since citrus is in season, we’ve added a bit of orange to the mix.
Below you’ll find two recipes – one for cranberry shrub syrup, and another for a cranberry shrub cocktail with bourbon.
Prep time for the cranberry shrub syrup is only about 15 minutes. But you’ll need to let the syrup age for 2 days so that the flavors can blend together. Our cranberry shrub syrup recipe yields about 2 cups. It keeps well for several weeks if refrigerated in an airtight container.
Prep time for the cocktail recipe is about 5 minutes (assuming you have cranberry shrub syrup on hand). It serves 1.
In the Notes, you’ll find a recipe for a nonalcoholic version of this drink (along with a gin version, just for good measure).
Our cranberry shrub syrup recipe is adapted from one we found in Michael Dietsch’s Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times. The cocktail recipe is our own original concoction.
Ingredients for Cranberry Shrub Syrup
- 1 large orange
- 1 cup sugar
- 12 ounces (1 package) fresh cranberries
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Wash and dry the orange. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange (try to include as little of the white pith as possible). Place the zest in a nonreactive bowl and add the sugar. Muddle the zest and sugar together (use a cocktail muddler or the back of a ladle or large spoon). Keep muddling for 5 minutes or so – you want to infuse the sugar with the oils from the orange zest. Once you’re finishing muddling, cover the bowl with shrink wrap and let sit at room temperature for an hour or two. Then fish out the orange zest and discard it.
- Meanwhile, juice the orange and place the juice in the refrigerator to chill.
- Wash the cranberries, picking out and discarding any bad ones. Pour the cranberries into the bowl of a food processor, along with the cider vinegar, and purée.
- Add the cranberry mixture to the muddled sugar (make sure you’ve fished out the zest). Then add the cinnamon stick and the reserved orange juice (from Step 2). Stir the ingredients well to mix, then cover the bowl with shrink wrap. Refrigerate the mixture for 2 days, stirring once or twice a day.
- After 2 days, strain the cranberry mixture and discard the solids. Pour the cranberry syrup into a glass jar or bottle. Cover tightly, then shake the jar to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Label the shrub syrup jar/bottle and refrigerate it. Before using the syrup, shake it again to combine the ingredients (the sugar can sometimes separate).
- 2 ounces bourbon
- ½ ounce Cointreau (may substitute Grand Marnier; see Notes)
- 1 ounce cranberry shrub syrup
- 2 dashes orange bitters (or to taste)
- orange twist for garnish (optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake well until thoroughly chilled (about 20 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Garnish, if you like, and serve.
- About infusing sugar with the oils of orange zest/peel: Much of the flavor of citrus is in the oily peel (the colored part, not the white pith, which tends to be bitter). By muddling the zest together with sugar (and letting the two mingle for an hour or two), we’re transferring most of the citrus oil to the sugar. Technically, what we’re making is an oleo-saccharum – oily sugar. It’s a neat trick that really works, although it does take a bit of time (most of it unattended).
- We like to serve this drink “up” in a cocktail glass. But if you prefer, you could serve it in a rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass over ice.
- Want to make a nonalcoholic version of this drink? Add 1 or 2 ounces of cranberry shrub syrup to a tall glass filled with ice. Add 4 to 6 ounces of seltzer water or ginger ale. Stir and serve with a straw. Add an orange slice for garnish, if you wish.
- Prefer to use a spirit other than bourbon? You can substitute dry gin if you like. The drink isn’t quite as interesting, in our opinion (it tastes a bit like alcoholic cranberry relish). But it’s a fun change.
- Speaking of bourbon, there’s no need to use a pricey brand for this cocktail. We like to use Evan Williams for mixed drinks. But any name-brand bourbon should work fine.
- BTW, we haven’t made this drink with rum yet, but think that would work pretty well too. Try a dark or amber rum.
- We’ve made this drink both with Cointreau and Grand Marnier. Both iterations are good. We tend to prefer the Cointreau version, but only by a little. We should note, however, that Grand Marnier combines very well with rum. So if you’re making a rum version of this drink, try Grand Marnier first.
- We use orange bitters in this drink mainly because we love the cranberry-orange-bourbon combo. We haven’t experimented with other bitters, but feel free to do so if you’re inclined.
“Nice to have a drink at last,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “After all that holiday cookie baking, I’m bushed.”
“Don’t you mean shrubbed?” I said.
“Berry clever,” said Mrs K R.
“I’m just bourbon over with puns today,” I said.
“Orange you the wit,” said Mrs K R.
Tart and vinegary, just to my taste.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Berry Shrub Syrup
Rum Shrub Cocktail
Betsy Ross Cocktail
Brandy Alexander Cocktail
Or check out the index for more