Happy Weekend Before Thanksgiving!
And herein we begin my most favorite time of year.
I’ve already mapped out my Thanksgiving meal, and I finalized cocktails for the two-day event this morning. I count Wednesday night the true kick-off to Thanksgiving, because once that workday ends it’s all family, cooking, eating, drinking, eating more, and drinking more. In comfy clothes. I can promise you my pants from Wednesday until Cyber Monday will be of the elastic band variety, and my top will be lengthy enough to disguise the food baby growing to monumental levels in my belly.
Truth: Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest drinking night of the year. Do you have your A game ready? I can help, if you answered “not yet.”
Cranberries speak my love language. I love tart fruit, and even with an abundance of sugar I’ve always imbibed in cranberry relish or jello or whatever variety happened to land next to the turkey on the Thanksgiving table. Even the canned stuff! But naturally, as I matured I realized like everything, if you take a little time to experiment with your favorite foods the outcome is exceptional.
I recently read about a cranberry glaze using port. Port is a fortified wine containing a high sugar content, typically served for dessert. Because it’s so sweet, I’m not a fan of drinking it straight, but I do keep it on hand for certain recipes. When I thought about combining it with cranberries versus adding sugar to the tart fruit, something clicked in my head.
The first batch of Cranberry Port Syrup I made was too syrupy – likely because I walked away from the stove and the concoction reduced too much. The second time though, I kept a good eye on it and I highly recommend you do the same. I also wanted to up the ante with some fall herbs and spices, so I threw in sage, rosemary, thyme, and a cinnamon stick, along with some water to keep things from getting too thick. I loved the consistency of the second batch, but it was slightly too tart.
Enter liquid stevia. This stuff is sweetener magic – it’s all natural, requires minuscule amounts to achieve the end state you’re looking for, and is relatively inexpensive. I love it in my afternoon cup of tea, and as it turns out, in my cranberry port syrup as well.
Knowing that I have readers out there who love vodka but hate bourbon, and those who hate vodka but love the brown stuff, I decided to try the syrup in two cocktails today. First off – the aforementioned Cranberry Port Martini.
Plain and simple – if you love Vodka, you’ll love this cocktail. I found that a smidge of orange liqueur helped bring out the cranberry flavor, which isn’t surprising as cranberry and orange are like peas and carrots. But better.
And for the bourbon drinkers, god love you all, YOU’RE UP! What’s more classic on a chilly fall evening than a Manhattan?
A Cranberry Port Manhattan.
Those three words spun together are a fall magician’s daydream. This cocktail is substantial, festive, barely fruity with all the heft of a traditional manhattan. Me love it long time.
In the hubbub of the next few days, stop to breathe deeply and soak it all in. I know I will with the Princess home from college, a high school senior anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters, two parents I’m grateful and lucky to have alive, and a sister-, brother-in-law and niece who keep me young and on my toes.
Cheers, my friends near and far. You make my life richer by being in it.
- 1 cup fresh cranberries (preferably from Wisconsin. Ya Hey Dere!)
- 1 cup port wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4 leafs of sage
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 drops stevia
- 3 oz top shelf vodka - I prefer Purity Vodka
- 1 oz Cranberry Port Syrup
- ½ oz orange Liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
- extra whole cranberries and sage leaf to garnish
- 3 oz bourbon
- 1 oz Cranberry Port Syrup
- 1 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antico Formula is the best)
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
- extra whole cranberries and a rosemary sprig to garnish
- For the Cranberry Port Syrup: combine the first seven ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and listen for the cranberries to pop open. Once they're open, mash them with the back of a spoon to extract their juice while the concoction continues to simmer. When the syrup is reduced by about half, remove from the heat and strain through a fine meshed sieve. Add the liquid stevia.
- To make the martini - combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a few cranberries and sage leaf.
- To make the manhattan - combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a few cranberries and a rosemary leaf. Alternatively, you can serve this on the rocks in a cocktail glass.