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.
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.
- 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
- 1½ - 2 oz. lillet blanc
- 1 oz. cranberry orange syrup
- 2-3 dashes angostura bitters
- Orange twist and sugared cranberries for garnish (see recipe notes for instructions)
- Optional: club soda for topping off
- For the cranberry orange syrup:
- 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).
- 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.
- For the cocktail:
- 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.)
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.