11 December 2013
Liquid Christmas: cranberry orange liqueur
Okay! Who's ready for holiday cheer? I certainly am. So, to kick off the season, let's make a batch of liquid Christmas.
What is liquid Christmas? It's a beautiful sweet-tart BRIGHT RED liqueur made with fresh cranberries and citrus zest: super festive and super delicious.
I first heard of this combination about two years ago on a certain Ravelry message board. The original version called for cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg along with the cranberries and zest. My version is stripped down to the bare essentials--cranberry, orange, and vodka--for a clean and versatile liqueur. After all, you can always make a spiced simple syrup for future cocktail application, right?
This liqueur is great in all kinds of cocktail applications. Tiny chilled sips are excellent straight, and a simple mix with tonic works perfectly. Best of all, add half a shot to a champagne flute, top it up with the sparkling wine of your choice, and garnish with a twist of orange peel. Beautiful pink champagne cocktails for everyone!
Making liqueurs, as always, is easy. The only real requirements are patience and forethought, since they do take time to infuse. I like to give this one approximately three weeks to steep, but you can go a little shorter or longer as you prefer. Two weeks should be fine, and will ensure drinkability by Christmas. And if you want to steep yours longer, never fear! There's always New Year's Eve!
(aka cranberry orange liqueur)
1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries
zest of 2-3 oranges
up to 750 ml vodka
simple syrup to taste
quart mason jar or other receptacle of your choice
Wash your cranberries and give them a rough chop. Zest your oranges, taking care to avoid the white pith. You can leave your strips of zest in big pieces with no problem.
Put everything in a mason jar or two, filling each container approximately 1/2 to 3/4 full of fruit. Add vodka to fill to the top of the jar. Lid and stow in a dark cupboard to age. Shake occasionally during the steeping period.
When your steeping period is over, strain out and discard the fruit. You may need to strain a few times through coffee filters or other very fine sieves to ensure that you eliminate all the solids.
Sweeten your liqueur to taste with simple syrup. I'd start by adding 1/4 of a cup, taste, and adjust from there. Since this liqueur is cranberry-based, it will be tart to begin with, so you may decide to add quite a bit of syrup. It really depends on on your personal tastes.
Makes approximately 1.5 pints of liqueur.
Basic simple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
(or any equal amount of sugar and water)
Combine your sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat over medium swirling occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Let cool and decant into a bottle or jar. Use to sweeten your liqueur to taste. Any leftovers can be used in the cocktail recipe of your choice.
What concoctions are you drinking this holiday season?