I have always wanted to make fresh cranberry juice, and you can find plenty of good recipes online that seem simple enough. Most of them describe putting cranberries through a blender or food processor, adding water, sometimes cooking them, sometimes letting the purée rest for some period, then straining the result. Then, it’s just a matter of adding sugar which helps bring that astringent flavor under control and counteracts the bitterness. The benefit is that you can add as little or as much sweetener as you like. The steps are straightforward enough, and I might try it some day, but for a single cocktail there had to be a shortcut.
The obvious solution is to simply muddle a handful of cranberries in your mixing glass and build the balance of flavor using other cocktail ingredients. That's what Misty Kalfoken of Drink, Boston does in her Boston Bog. This cocktail is one of fifty excellent recipes from the new book The American Cocktail by Imbibe Magazine. The recipe was posted online at The Daily Meal a few weeks ago, but it's so tasty that it bears repeating.
Boston Bog by Misty Kalfoken
1.5 oz Appleton rum
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz apricot liqueur
.5 oz ginger syrup
6 fresh cranberries (or .5 oz juice)
Muddle berries (or add juice) and add rest to shaker with ice. Shake, double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.
Not only does this take the challenge and effort out of making fresh cranberry juice, but in many ways, I prefer this concept because it can be done as needed, it only takes a few moments, and it results in an intense burst of flavor that is just what you want in a cocktail. The recipe suggests using 6 cranberries which will give you a hint of their presence in this drink, so I decided to double it just to see what happened. To my surprise, they didn't overpower the other ingredients. Instead, the berries were more pronounced and I liked the effect. You can experiment with as few or as many as you like.
The rum called for here is Appleton which is Jamaican, but I used Smith & Cross. Don't let the wrong rum stop you from trying this, but recognize that having a little variation in your cabinet will translate into more interesting flavor options for your cocktails. This drink is certainly better for it. The other flavors here are lemon, apricot and ginger. Here is another great example of apricot liqueur which we just featured in the Rural Juror. And to top it off, one of my favorite components—ginger syrup—provides the sweetness with a nice kick from the ginger.
I didn't have an orange to make the twist for the garnish so I tossed in a cranberry which swims around like a fishing bobber and helps you recognize the flavors you are tasting. I am probably missing the kiss of orange oil, but even without that effect, this is a terrific seasonal cocktail and one that I will keep coming back to. I have enough cranberries to last a while, but I have a feeling this will work just as well using frozen (thaw them before muddling, of course). Judging from this example, there are 49 other great reasons to grab this new cocktail book. I am glad I did!