Cranberry Christmas Cordial To Keep You Warm

The snow is snowing. The wind is blowing. But I can weather the storm. What do I care, how much it may storm? I've got my love to keep me warm

Wait, hold that Christmassy note: I meant my vodka, not love.

I came across a recipe in early November from Diary of a Locavore, aptly named “homemade Christmas spirit.” It was right around thanksgiving time; in fact, it was the last week the farmers’ market was open here in Boston. It happened by chance, but I scored the sweetest, most inspiring New England cranberries I have ever seen.

And so I doused them in vodka with some citrus, cinnamon, and cloves and just like that, this gorgeously festive spirit walked right into my life. And much like a long-lasting romance, with the right amount of forethought and a smidgen of coddling, a beautiful, beautiful cordial was made.

It’s been “maturing” in my fridge since November 22nd (and was well worth the wait). Last night, as I sat typing this, I looked out onto the streets of Beacon Hill from my full wall of windows to see the wind whipping Boston’s first snowflakes around: big and fat, but light as they fell. Gas lampposts, dressed with bright red bows, casted light onto the fallen snow. Watching all of this (and sipping some Christmas spirit) I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt more alive. Or warm—especially on the eve of a winter solstice.

This cranberry cordial may be the perfect antidote for a blustery winter night. It also reminds me of the cranberry vodka that I drank quite a bit of one cold winter at Café St. Petersburg, a Russian restaurant in Newton Center. They served little carafes of their homemade, jewel-toned—strong yet syrupy—cranberry vodka with hot cabbage pirozhok, a buttery pastry worth a commute to Russia. I typically left slightly starry-eyed from the vodka, but always in good spirits. (They might have patched up the cold war a longtime ago, if both sides had simply settled on more pirozhok and vodka and less bombs.)

This cranberry cordial is quite a match for the one they serve at Café St. Petersburg. And though I’m probably asking for it by comparing my vodka to that of a Russian’s, the Christmas notes in this recipe may be the perfect way to cap off your holiday.

The warm spices wrap around you like a blanket; allowing you to drink the cordial pleasantly, comfortably on it’s own (even if you aren’t Russian): should you care to do so. And for some holiday cheer, I passed the cordial out as gifts this year. (If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that vodka never goes to waste, especially around the holidays.) One friend inquired as to what she should drink with it. Gee, I said, it never crossed my mind to drink it any way other than straight.

It occurs to me it would probably be lovely a number of ways. You could reduce it and drizzle it over some roast duck (or Christmas goose?). Or simply pour it over cinnamon ice cream.

I have a feeling this cranberry cordial is going to be a new Christmas tradition, at least for as long as I can get fresh cranberries. After all, I live in New England. I need a way to weather the storm. Though, I really don’t care how much it may storm: I’ve got my Christmas spirit to keep me warm.

Cranberry 'Christmas Spirit' Cordial

2 cups sugar
1 orange, the juice and the rinds (pith removed)
about 1/4 cup water
2 cups of whole cranberries, divided
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves
2 cups vodka

Heat sugar, juice and zest of your orange, water and half of your cranberries in a saucepan until your cranberries just start to split. Add the rest of your cranberries and spices and cook about 5 minutes more. Let sit until the cranberry mixture comes to room temperature and then add the vodka.

Store it in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dark place (the fridge works great if there is room). Let it sit for at least 2 weeks before drinking. Strain out the cranberries and spices and bottle the remaining cordial.

Makes about 4 cups

-I saved the vodka-soaked cranberries and moved them straight to my freezer (and then to my mouth). I've been snacking on them all week. They are strong, but delicious.

-If you are making this for the holidays be sure to start early: at least 2 weeks, preferably longer, before bottling (I waited a month).

-They have lovely food-grade bottles at The Container Store that work very well for bottling; you'll see them next week when I post about another liqueur I gifted. Tis the season!


  1. This sounds wonderful! I love cranberries and I love anything that has some spice to it this time of year!

  2. As a recipient of this holiday drink, thank you for such a delicious gift! It goes great with our molasses cookies.

  3. I make a cranberry liqueur each holiday season - but never added spices or orange zest. Sounds like a perfect addition!

  4. Brilliant. I'm doing this next year if I'm on a continent where I can find fresh cranberries!

  5. I'm drinking this delicious concoction as we speak, while simultaneously chowing down on a buckeye candy. The combination, while odd, seems to work.

    To the holidays!

  6. cordial. what a great name, what a great word. nice beverage! me, i've got a space heater to keep me warm. :)

  7. My father infused vodka with cherries and sugar over the summer and let it mature for several months. I didn't try but I heard it was tasty! I can't wait to tell him about what you made. Happy Holidays to you and your family, Em!

  8. Hoping you all had a happy holiday ... and happy cordial drinking!
    Stac, your dad's cherry vodka sounds amazing. I'm storing that little nugget away for when summer comes back around!