Prep This Easy Thanksgiving Cranberry Cocktail in Advance

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[Photographs: Elana Lepkowski]

My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the cranberry sauce. I love eating bits of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing...as long as they're all covered in cranberry sauce. That sweet and savory combination just speaks to me.

But even if you're not as jazzed about cranberry sauce as I am, and you'd rather not indulge in a jiggly spoonful straight up, I think you'll love this drink.

It's based on a black pepper–spiced cranberry shrub that's sweet, savory, and tart. As you might recall, shrub syrups were a way for folks to preserve fruit back in colonial days, before refrigeration. That preservative power means you can mix up your shrub base way in advance of the party—it keeps just fine for at least a month in the fridge.

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And, unlike many holiday entertaining recipes, the shrub mix is easy and quick. You'll combine the fruit with peppercorns, vinegar, sugar, and water, then give the ingredients a little heat, which helps the cranberries pop open and maximizes the earthy flavor you're getting from the pepper. A little straining will make sure there aren't any seeds or hard spices in the drink.

Mixed with fruity sparkling wine and citrusy bitters, the drink works wonderfully to lighten a meal packed with sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and more. But those who aren't drinking booze can still partake, gently stirring the flavorful shrub into chilled sparkling water.