Why It Works
- The shrub's tangy flavor works well to counterbalance a celebratory meal's richer flavors.
- The drink is great for parties, since it can be prepped in advance.
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.
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.
For the Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub:
2 cups (approximately 10 ounces by weight) cranberries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
For the Cocktails:
36 ounces chilled sparkling wine (from 2 bottles)
20 dashes orange bitters
12 ounces chilled cranberry-black pepper shrub
Cranberries, for garnish
For the Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub: In a nonreactive saucepan, combine cranberries, peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water. Stir to combine. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook, opening the lid and stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and some of the cranberries begin popping open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour entire mixture into an airtight, nonreactive container. Refrigerate at least 8 and up to 12 hours. Strain mixture twice through a fine-mesh strainer, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
For the Cocktails: Slowly pour chilled sparkling wine into a pitcher. Add bitters and chilled cranberry-black pepper shrub. Stir very gently to mix. Serve immediately. Individual glasses can be garnished with cranberries.
For a non-alcoholic alternative, combine 1 ounce of the cranberry-black pepper shrub, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and 3 ounces club soda in a wine glass. (Add 2 dashes of orange bitters, if desired—they contain a tiny amount of alcohol.) Garnish with cranberries and serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 15g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 11g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||23%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|