Christmas cheer – Cranberry Liqueur

by Amanda McInerney on 19/12/2011

This last week before Christmas is when I really begin to get my cooking mojo on.  I am filled with Christmas cheer, good intentions and motivation (or sometimes, just slight nausea and rising panic) as I start to get the food for the big day organised.  I like to make some of my Christmas gifts and usually spend the week before baking shortbreads, biscotti and things with chocolate on/in them, making the assorted goodies into interesting little parcels for my friends.  I’ll still be baking tomorrow, but a couple of other diverting little treats caught my eye this year so I’ve branched out a little.  I’ve already made some Roasted Capsicum in Olive Oil, inspired by this recipe I saw in the New York Times.  It is very simple and you can vary it by adding whatever herbs or spices take your fancy, making it quite versatile, but the idea which really attracted me was a Cranberry Liqueur.

I was inspired by a recipe posted by my friend Barbara on her fantastic website, Creative Culinary.  Her recipe was so eye-catching, delicious and simple (remember, I’m very lazy) that I couldn’t wait to add it to my list of Christmas goodies.  There will be plenty of chilled bubbly going down the throats of my friends and I during the holidays and this is exactly the right colour to add some extra Christmas cheer to our glasses.


Harvesting cranberries

Being North American, Barbara’s recipe naturally called for fresh cranberries – not at all easy to find here in the Australian summer as they are generally grown in wetlands in the USA and Canada and harvested from flooded water beds.  I’m nothing if not adaptable and was therefore quite happy to try making this with frozen cranberries – always available at this time of year, right?  Nope, wrong, wrong, wrong.  I spent a fruitless (pardon the pun) morning on the telephone trying to find someone – anyone – who had frozen berries in stock before I found my way to the USA Cranberries Downunder website.  A phone call to their contact number was all it took to discover that for unfortunate and inexplicable reasons there is a national Australian shortage of frozen cranberries – a Christmas cranberry crisis!   This left me in something of a pickle as a quick confabulation with Creative Culinary Queen, Barbara, made clear that the commercially available chopped dried berries – craisins – were not going to cut it.    Between us, we worked out that reconstituted whole dried berries might possibly do the trick.  Those wonderful, caring cranberry consultants (all right, I’ll stop now) leapt to my aid and in no time had supplied me with enough whole dried cranberries to allow me to tweak Barbara’s recipe and see what I could come up with.

I was quite pleased with my version of Barbara’s recipe and, while it is a bit late for you to get some made for Christmas, if you can lay your hands on whole dried cranberries you still have time to whip up a batch for new years drinks or champagne cocktails on the beach.  Barbara’s original recipe is here, my adaptation follows.

Cranberry Liqueur


  • 250 gms dried whole cranberries
  • 1-2 cups pure cranberry juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • juice and grated zest of 1 whole orange
  • 2 cups vodka (use the best you can afford for optimum results)


  1. Place dried cranberries in a porcelain or stainless steel bowl and add just enough cranberry juice to cover. Leave for 24 hours.
  2. Next day combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for 3 minutes, ensuring all sugar is dissolved.
  3. Cool slightly, then add rehydrated berries, remaining juice, orange juice and zest and vodka.
  4. Pour into processor and pulse VERY BRIEFLY to just break up the berries a little. (I used a stab mixer for this bit. Not to be recommended as it took quite a while to clean up the sticky red splashes.)
  5. Store, covered, in a non-reactive container (glass, stainless steel) for 2-3 weeks, giving it a stir occasionally. The wait is imperative to allow the vodka time to mellow.
  6. Strain through a fine cloth (I used a clean Chux) and then bottle.

Quick notes

Don’t throw out the fruit – it makes a lovely grown up dessert swirled through ice cream or scattered on top of whipped cream on a pavlova.

The dried cranberries I used were kindly supplied by the Cranberry Marketing Committee.  Whole dried cranberries are available in organic food stores.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Lizzy (Good Things) December 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Oh deliciousness, come to mama!

Anna@ The Littlest Anchovy December 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm

What a fantastic idea for gifts! I love your bottles too :)

InTolerant Chef December 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm

How nice to have someone go the extra mile for you, especially at this busy time of year. I love this recipe indeed, and have some whole dried cranberries in the pantry. Sadly for me, alcohol is out this Christmas with ask the morphine I’m on….. How will I cope with the in laws???

Barbara | Creative Culinary December 20, 2011 at 2:06 am

I knew I liked you…oh not that you used my recipe although always happy to be of inspiration (I’m making chocolate liqueur today!) but because you stayed the course. I like that dogged determination; you are a woman after my own stubborn heart. :)

And you did a fabulous job…I will be linking to your recipe for sure for others who might find themselves in the midst of, oh dear, a fresh cranberry shortage!

Amanda December 20, 2011 at 8:41 am

Barbara – I hope you are going to post that chocolate liqueur recipe. I have special bond with chocolate!

barbara December 20, 2011 at 8:42 am

I believe cranberries are grown in NZ, but I don’t know if they are sold here. I only ever bought frozen ones when we lived in NZ and I don’t know if they were local.

Cakelaw December 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm

You were very devoted to reconstitute the berries, but the results speak for themselves- this looks delicious!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella December 20, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Very interesting liqueur! I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it before-it is very striking.

leaf (the indolent cook) December 20, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I love cranberry juice so I’ll most certainly enjoy this. What a glorious festive beverage!

Melanie @ Melanie Cooks December 21, 2011 at 7:17 am

Looks delicious, and gorgeous bottles!

Hotly Spiced December 21, 2011 at 7:24 am

I also like to make some of my Christmas gifts. Today I’m making my parents a Christmas cake as part of their present for this year. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Amanda December 21, 2011 at 8:06 am

Anna – Thanks, I like the bottles too. I wonder if I can get people to give them back to me if I promise to refill them next year?
Bec – Oh dear, Xmas & rellies with no alcohol – that’s a challenge.
Barbara – many thanks to you for the inspiration and suggestions – it’s a great Chrissie tipple & will go down well here on a hot day!
Barbara (Wino’s & Foodies) – I’d be surprised if they were grown here. They need a lot of water.
Gaye – It is a lovely drink – a little sweetness, but not too much.
Lorraine – it is the perfect Xmas colour.
Leaf – I’m pretty sure it must be (at least a little) good for you – cranberries are just bursting with goodness.
Melanie – thanks, the bottles were a great find.

Jennifer (Delicieux) December 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Cranberry liqueur…now that is a reason to celebrate!!! So Christmassy too with it’s red colouring.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Kate December 22, 2011 at 8:47 am

I am needing that chilled bubbly right now to quell that rising panic – I still have 2 days at work which does not help !

Mandy - The Complete Cook Book December 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Ooh la la, this is fantastic!
Wishing you and yours a Merry Chritmas Amanda.
:-) Mandy

Caroline February 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Barb sent me! :-)
I can’t always get fresh cranberries, and this recipe seems like a great alternative to the fresh or frozen cranberry liqueur. Those fancy bottles you used look just stunning, too.

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