DIY vs. Buy: How to Make Cranberry Liqueur

Marcia Simmons

I've never been one for putting cranberries on my turkey. However, I can't get enough of cranberry cocktails this time of year. The Cosmopolitan is the most well-known cranberry tipple, but because it makes people think of Sex and the City, cranberries are often ignored as a serious cocktail ingredient. Can we just get over that? These little berries will add a vibrant tartness to your drinks that can't be matched by any other fruit.

Forget about the big jugs of watery cranberry juice on the grocery store shelves—the best way to put these gorgeous red fruits into your drinks is with a homemade cranberry liqueur. Fresh cranberries are ubiquitous this time of year, and turning them into liqueur is a snap. So not only will you have a versatile ingredient for festive Thanksgiving cocktails, but a bottle of this beautiful crimson liqueur also makes a great gift come December.

What's Available to Buy?

Cranberry liqueur isn't common enough to see at every local liqueur store, but there are a few that you can order online. For about $30, Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon has a deep red cranberry liqueur with a lovely deep and fruity flavor. Black Duck cranberry liqueur is available online for around $20—I've never had the chance to try it. DeKuyper also used to make one, but it seems to have disappeared—which is fine with me, since its color was a bit too neon for me to trust.

Why DIY?

" I don't see the point of spending my whiskey money on store-bought cranberry liqueur, when I can make a version I like just as much for around $6"

Homemade cranberry liqueur has a full, bright flavor, whether you use fresh or frozen berries. All you need is a few cheap ingredients and a couple days to create a gorgeous and delicious liqueur that's as good or better than the commercial options (if you're even able to find those in the first place). I don't see the point of spending my whiskey money on store-bought cranberry liqueur, when I can make a version I like just as much for around $6.

Cranberry liqueur also allows some room for creativity and improvisation. I'm dying to try this recipe with gin in place of the vodka. Cranberries pair well with basically every fruit, so you can adapt the recipe to be cran-apple, cran-raspberry, cran-lime, or cran-anything-you-like by just adding other fruit in along with the cranberries. Pour your liqueur into some cute bottles, and you have a low-effort holiday or hostess gift.

Use It!

You should try out your homemade liqueur on Turkey day: it works especially well in light and refreshing drinks that are perfect partners for a big Thanksgiving meal. Mix it with club soda or sparkling wine and fresh orange juice for a drink that will not only taste great but will also look great on the table. If that doesn't have enough kick for you, add in a splash of vodka or gin.

Once you're ready for a richer holiday drink, add some homemade cranberry liqueur to eggnog for a surprising new twist. Holidays are boozy times, so I'm sure you and your family will come up with a few brand-new cranberry cocktails.