We are hosting a Christmas party in a couple of weeks and I’ve been experimenting with all of the fresh, leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving (first year making cranberry sauce from scratch – so easy and so good!). I also love a good infused gift right around the holidays (homemade is the BEST) so this guy was an easy one to think up while working on something tasty to serve. The end result? A sweet (literally) bourbon cocktail that is so good.
Simple syrups really help to make a delicious cocktail and the combination of lavender and whole cranberries is so complimentary. Very festive, too!
Cranberry & Lavender Bourbon Cocktail
one part cranberry & lavender simple syrup
one part bourbon
one part seltzer or bubbly (could also substitute tonic or club soda)
garnish with lavender and whole cranberries
For my mocktail, one part simple syrup and two parts of a fizzy drink like club soda.
I packaged some of the simple syrup in small bottles, I think they’d be perfect as favors or handmade gifts for friends. A while back I worked on several ‘drink kits’ that included all of the ingredients + recipe to make a favorite cocktail as Christmas gifts – this fits in perfectly with that idea again. Package with a small bottle of a favorite bourbon (the recipe for the drink is on the back of the simple syrup label for easy reference) for a fun gift.
Back to infusions… infused simple syrups are so easy – rosemary, orange, peppermint, the possibilities are endless.
To make a simple syrup, reduce 1 part water and 1 part sugar in a small saucepan. To add an herb or fruit, simply include the fresh ingredients in this first step too. I added whole cranberries and lavender and allowed the mixture to come to a slow rolling boil over medium-low heat. If you cook the sugar for too long your liquid will begin to caramelized (you can tell because the color will begin to change to a light brown) and may even crystalize. If you accidentally do over boil your sugar mixture, just add more water and continue the simmer process until the new sugar crystals are dissolved. Just make sure the reduction doesn’t taste burnt before you continue. The perfect syrup should be watery so that it can be stirred easily into a drink. Hmmm… maybe the consistency of a ‘light’ pancake syrup? or cough medicine? Not a pretty comparison.
Homemade cranberry sauce is almost identical to a cranberry-infused simple syrup except that the mixture is allowed to cook for a longer period of time to create a thicker reduction (almost like a gelatin) and then is cooled. I was thinking about using the finished jelly itself as some sort of drink ingredient (ha!) as I was making it for Thanksgiving, but creating a true simple syrup has worked out so much better.
After five minutes or so of reducing, pour mixture through a sieve to separate out solids. This step it optional depending on what sort of consistency you like in a cocktail :). The cranberry-lavender pulp is actually pretty yummy!
For the garnish, I strung cranberries on lavender sprigs (hint: if the sprigs aren’t strong enough to poke a hole through the cranberry, use a toothpick first) and then lightly misted them with water and dipped them in sugar.
I made little drink labels for the bottles to point out ingredients, the recommended cocktail mixture (though there are so many options) and a special note that the contents should be consumed within the week (whenever infusing homemade anything it’s better to play it safe rather than risk bacteria by letting the mixture sit on the shelf for a long time – worse, forgotten!, especially when including whole fruit or sprigs in the bottles themselves).
My finished bottling included a handful of cranberries along with the strained simple syrup. If you anticipate making the syrup much more than a few days before when you hand out the bottles as gifts, omit the whole cranberries and include just the strained syrup.
The little bottles are the perfect size for guests to recreate the holiday cocktail for two at home.
Happy start to your week! The mocktail version of this cocktail is delicious (especially with a sugar-rimmed glass!), but I’m looking forward to enjoying the real deal very soon. Five and a half weeks and counting! Wow I can’t believe that this pregnancy is nearing the finish line so quickly.
More handmade gift ideas found here (the list is growing!), and if you love a good infusion, here are quick links to a few favorites: rosemary olive oil, a yummy lavender & lemon sea salt, another delicious winter cocktail (with homemade kahlua!) and a baking must-have. And just for fun, another delicious bourbon drink if you’re a bourbon kind of person (I am).