Cranberry Orange Aperitif

cranberry apertif, web ready-6

I’ve always envied creative types who say their most productive time is in the morning. That they wake up inspired, motivated, and ready to take on the world. I sometimes wake up feeling inspired, but more often than not it’s in the middle of the night, when the best I can muster is to scribble down an illegible note to myself (which I will later read and wonder what it means), or tell myself “I’ll remember it in the morning,” which I never, ever do. (This is by far the most common lie I tell myself: that I’ll remember something important, and later all I know is that there was something really important I was supposed to remember. Tell me I’m not the only one who does this.)

Last night was one of those nights. I woke up at one thirty in the morning, with cranberries on the brain. And I couldn’t get them out. I tried to go back to sleep, but they wouldn’t leave me alone… I had to have them. So I got up, in my pajamas, and joined the other midnight shoppers (a generally shady group of people, but to whom I felt a certain camaraderie as I stumbled half asleep through the store), on a quest for those pretty red berries.

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I have a theory, that there is no single thing more festive than a cranberry. Except, perhaps, a sugared cranberry. First sweet, then tart, covered in a crispy coating of sugar. They’re almost too pretty to eat. Almost. The Husband keeps telling me he doesn’t like cranberries, and yet they keep disappearing from the tray every time he walks past. They’re kind of like nature’s skittles. Fun to eat, and just sweet enough to keep you coming back for more. Plus, they look like tiny edible ornaments when used to garnish a drink, which is reason enough to love them.

This apéritif is about as festive as it gets. It’s on the sweeter side for a pre-meal beverage (the sweetness of lillet blanc shines through despite the inherent tartness of the berries), but perfectly sippable nonetheless. I’d happily drink this before, after, or during a meal, but maybe that’s just me. The cranberry orange syrup makes this drink particularly versatile (it’s delicious stirred into a glass of ginger ale, or lemon lime soda, for those who don’t want the booze), or can be mixed into other cocktails for a pop of color and flavor.

What is it about me and red cocktails? First the pomegranate ginger fizz, then the prickly pear margaritas, now this… maybe it’s just in my head, but sometimes I think the brighter the pink, the better the drink. I guess I’ll just have to do more experimenting to test that theory out. Starting with another one of these.

cranberry apertif, web ready-8

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cranberry Orange Aperitif
Cranberry Orange Syrup:
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½-3/4 cup granulated sugar (see recipe notes)
  • zest of 1 orange
Per (3 oz) cocktail:
  • 1½ - 2 oz. lillet blanc
  • 1 oz. cranberry orange syrup
  • 2-3 dashes angostura bitters
  • ice
  • Orange twist and sugared cranberries for garnish (see recipe notes for instructions)
  • Optional: club soda for topping off
  1. For the cranberry orange syrup:
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, water, orange juice, sugar, and orange zest. bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have started breaking down (about 15 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat, let cool, then strain into a clean bottle or jar. Syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks.
  4. For the cocktail:
  5. Pour the lillet and cranberry orange syrup over ice. Add the bitters, and shake or stir to combine. Strain out the ice, and garnish with a twist of orange, and sugared cranberries (see recipe notes for instructions). Ingredients can be doubled, tripled, etc., and stirred together, then poured into individual glasses to serve a crowd. (Can be served as is in a shooter glass, or poured into a bigger glass and topped off with club soda for a lighter drink.)
1. For the sugared cranberries: rinse 2 cups of fresh cranberries, and set aside to drain. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water. Heat until sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Let the syrup cool completely, then pour over the cranberries. In a shallow dish, place another ½-1 cup sugar. Drain the syrup from the cranberries (syrup can be reserved for future cocktails), then roll the cranberries in the sugar in batches (if the sugar becomes clumpy, replace it with fresh sugar). Spread the cranberries in an even layer on a baking sheet, and let the sugar harden for 3-4 hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
2. For those who aren't a fan of booze, the cranberry orange syrup can be mixed with ginger ale, or lemon lime soda for a refreshing non-alcoholic alternative.
3. Feel free to adjust the sugar in the syrup to your liking. ½ cup makes a fairly tart syrup, which gets balanced out nicely by the sweetness of the lillet. For a sweeter syrup, increase the sugar by ¼ cup, or to taste.

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7 Responses to Cranberry Orange Aperitif

  1. shannon December 1, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    okay, so first of all, i’d like a giant print of that cover photo sent to me for christmas. not joking i would hang that b*tch in my window and never stop looking at it.

    that was my most important comment. except to say that i’m totally in love with this drink: i really do think the pinker the drink, the better. agree.

    i think lastly i should say this: don’t envy those of us who say our most productive time is in the morning. seriously. because that means i have to harness that at like, 5 am, because by 10 am? i’m TOAST. Done. No more motivation. it also means that if something goes awry at 3 am and i wake up? OMG READY TO THINK, which can really backfire later in the day. I’ve accepted my morning creativity, but i’d actually rather have it late at night or something…i feel like more would get done somehow.

    • Willow Arlen December 3, 2014 at 10:21 am #

      Haha, thanks, Shannon! Just to be clear, do you mean the new GGF magazine cover photo, or do you mean the first photo of this post? Not gonna lie, I kind of stair at this drink sometimes just wondering how so much beauty got through my camera lens. Seriously not sure how it happened.

      Okay, so maybe feeling super motivated at 5am isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… but when I said I envy morning motivation, I imagined waking up at 8, and feeling inspired until, like, noon, which sounds pretty much perfect. Oh, and then I’d like to be tired and in bed by like, 11, so I’m not groggy and cranky the next day. Basically, I need someone to send me to bed and wake me up at specific times because apparently I’m just not grow’d up enough to do it myself with any kind of regularity. :P

  2. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles December 2, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Ooh, the styling in these photos is just gorgeous… so warm, festive and inviting. I discovered your beautiful blog via Go Gluten Free Magazine and look forward to exploring more. Wanted to drop in to say hello and congrats on your lovely work.

    • Willow Arlen December 3, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      Thank you so much, Kelly! I’m glad you dropped by!

  3. cynthia December 3, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    I second Shannon — I LOVE. LOVE these photos!!! So vibrant, Christmas-y and gorgeous — and yes, the pinker the drink, definitely the better :) These look amazing.

  4. mimi December 8, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Beautiful! I love the look of sugared cranberries, and your photos are outstanding!!!

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