Even though it’s still warm here, I’m in a Christmas mood. I can’t wait for the Christmas TV shows, but I’m already tired of some of the commercials LOL. This time of year means at least one get-together with the family and friends. A few of us who drink are all bourbon lovers, so there was no way I could pass up this Spiced Cranberry Bourbon Old Fashioned with Sugared Cranberries recipe. I know, it’s a long name, but it’s spices and cranberries (so Christmas!) added to one of my favorite bourbon cocktails. I have a feeling this will be a good one, but I need to do the work to make sure.
This spiced cranberry bourbon old fashioned is the perfect holiday cocktail! The simple syrup is made with fresh cranberries, star anise, cinnamon & clove!
We are drinking less liquor lately, so I had a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon in my bar along with two bottles of Angostura Bitters. I have no clue why two bottles of bitters, but that sounds like a lifetime supply!
My pantry was my next stop, and there I found I had the cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, sugar, and club soda. And water, of course.
That left me to buy fresh cranberries, star anise pods, whole allspice berries, and oranges for the peel. I bought two 12-ounce bags of fresh cranberries and two oranges to make sure I had plenty of peel.
The only thing I didn’t check for was maraschino cherries. We always have a jar in the refrigerator door. Always! Too bad I forgot that we threw out everything but the pickled foods when our old refrigerator died.
I had to send hubby out for a jar of cherries, and I loved his selection. He bought a brand we haven’t tried called Sable & Rosenfeld Whiskey Tipsy Cherries. They have that bright red maraschino cherry color and sweetness plus a little bite from being soaked in malt whiskey. A 10-ounce jar was $6.49.
Before I could make my Spiced Cranberry Bourbon Old Fashioned, I had to make the spiced cranberry syrup and sugared cranberries. I made mine the day before I planned to make the cocktail.
Spiced Cranberry Syrup
Making this spiced syrup was a cross between making simple syrup and making cranberry sauce. All I had to do was add sugar, water, cranberries, and whole spices to a saucepan, and let it come to a boil.
Once I heard the cranberries start popping I set a timer for four minutes and left everything to a boil. Tip: Popping cranberries can make a mess. Place the pan’s lid askew or use a spatter screen to help contain the red sugary splashes.
Once the syrup was cooled, I strained out most of the solids with a regular mesh strainer/colander. It got the spices and berries but not their tiny seeds. I had to use a fine mesh cocktail strainer to get out the seeds.
Tip: Gently press the cranberries with the back of a spoon as you strain to get as much syrup as possible.
I started on these while the spiced cranberry syrup cooled. I’ve made them before, and they are so easy! This time I made a small batch of simple syrup, then mixed it with the cranberries.
Tip: The recipe says to mix the cranberries in the pan, but my pan was too small. I used a heat-proof mixing bowl instead. It left me to thoroughly mix the berries in the syrup without spills before transferring them to the wire cooling racks to dry.
There were a lot of cranberries in a 12-ounce bag, so I used a large wire cooling rack placed on a sheet pan to dry them. Unfortunately, a bunch of the cranberries were small enough to fall through the squares in the wire rack and onto the sheet pan beneath.
I am lucky enough to have two sizes of cooling racks, one that fits a full sheet pan and one that’s about half the size. The small wire cooling rack has slightly smaller squares, and it saved a lot of those small cranberries. (I’m using the word “small” a lot today!
Tip: A few small cranberries fell through the squares in my smallest wire cooling rack. I could have tossed them and probably not noticed, but I hate to toss perfectly good food. Instead, I placed a mesh spatter screen over a mixing bowl to save the stragglers. It worked a treat!
Making a Spiced Cranberry Bourbon Old Fashioned
Mixing up this cocktail was the same as making a regular old-fashioned, just with some different garnishes. It only took me two minutes, I made it in the glass and stirred it up with a 5-inch cinnamon stick that also served as a garnish. I promise the maraschino cherry is in there too, but it sank to the bottom and got lost in the red liquid.
A channel knife was a quick way to peel off a thin strip of orange peel. I felt tiny splashes of moisture as I ran the channel knife along the orange. It was releasing the aromatic oils that made it smell so good and add to the cocktail’s flavor. Tip: Press lightly when you peel so you only get the peel and not the bitter white pith.
I wanted to have fun with the look of this festive cocktail, so I used my 12-ounce balloon glasses with a large square ice cube. I also added a Christmasy evergreen branch and pinned it to the glass with a mini clothespin.
Tip: Try and place the cranberries on top of the ice cube. The ones that fell off lost their sugar coating. Still pretty, but I love the frosted look.
This recipe lists a total time of 20 minutes. Based on my times I would say that is the active time and does not include cooling or drying time. My active time was 25 minutes, with 1 hour 25 minutes of inactive time. Here’s how everything broke down:
- Spiced Cranberry Syrup
- 3 minutes to prep the cranberry syrup
- 10 minutes to cook
- 25 minutes to cool*
- 3 minutes to strain
- Sugared Cranberries
- 4 minutes to make
- 1 hour to dry
- 3 minutes to roll in sugar
- Spiced Cranberry Bourbon Old Fashioned
- 2 minutes to make and garnish
- 1 hour 50 minutes total
*I let the syrup cool while I started work on the sugared cranberries. That took 5 minutes, so the total cooling time was 30 minutes.