Issue: 2016-02-25, PHOTO: Miche Genest
One Last Cranberry Fling: a fine balance of spirit, sweet and sour
The seventh week of sorting the pantry shelf of homemade liqueurs has arrived and I have tired of the exercise. There are still cocktails to be made with Labrador tea-infused vodka, with rowanberry aquavit, with morel mushroom whisky. But my imagination is taxed. I need respite.
Several years ago one of my pals in Whitehorse received a landmark gift: some old friends of her parents drove up from Calgary to visit her, bringing with them a case of booze.
This was not a selection of the fine wines available in Calgary’s many boutique liquor stores. These friends from an older generation were downsizing from family home to condo and in the process had cleared out their liquor cabinet. The case of booze they brought all the way up the highway with them contained the dregs — we all know them, we’ve all had encounters with them, encounters best forgotten — the Crème de Menthe, the Bols Banana, the Blue Curaçao, the Tia Maria, the Southern Comfort.
For many months thereafter, that case accompanied my friend to every party she attended. Her aim was always to leave it behind at the end of the night, to re-gift it, as the saying goes, but her hosts were vigilant and her schemes, no matter how ingenious, ended in failure.
It has taken her years to divest of those vials of sweet poison; indeed I attended a party at her house over the holidays and spotted the virulent hue of Bols Banana at the back of the counter. I glanced around the room to see who the intended victim might be and clutched my bag closely to me lest she try to slip it in when I wasn’t looking.
Her children have now entered their teenage years and I see a way out. There is a window of opportunity between the ages of 18 and 21 when items like Bols Banana seem a revelation — tasty, and yet booze. Though I love her children dearly and hope that if they do drink Bols Banana they will do so with restraint and decorum, their mother is my primary concern. I consider that they owe her. She needs to be rid of the Bols.
All this to say, I, too, need a spot of freedom. I need release from the imperative of making cocktails with liqueurs I made myself. I don’t want to invent anything, I want to sit in nice bars and drink inspired cocktails served by dazzling mixologists.
I’m tempted to have a party and just get rid of the whole lot, but I know that would be folly. I will come back, refreshed, after a hiatus.
I do have one last offering at this tail end of the New Year’s cleaning, one that has received the seal of approval from my housemate, visiting from Saskatoon, who is not a cocktail drinker, but always up for an experiment. The challenge this week was to incorporate cranberry liqueur into a cocktail. I’m pretty happy with what we concocted.
One Last Cranberry Fling
1 ½ oz. Appleton Estate Signature Blend Rum
½ oz. Cointreau
¼ oz. cranberry liqueur
¼ oz. lime juice
1 dash Angostura orange bitters
2 dashes Fee Brothers Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters
Orange twist and one low bush cranberry for garnish
- Pour ingredients over ice in a shaker. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds.
- Strain into coupe or Martini glasses and garnish with the twist and berry.
1 cup (250 mL) wild lowbush cranberries
1½ cups (375 mL)) good quality vodka
½ cup (125 mL) sugar
½ cup (125 mL) water
- Wash berries, shake dry and pour into a clean, dry jar with a screw-top lid. Pour vodka over berries. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for five days. Shake the jar gently every day. Taste a small sample. If the berry flavour isn’t as intense as you’d like, store for another five days, continuing to shake every day.
- Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, then through a coffee filter — be patient, it takes a while. Reserve the berries and store in a covered container in the refrigerator. They will keep for a year or longer.
- Make a simple syrup by combining sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from heat and cool. Add to the cranberry vodka until it’s sweet enough for your taste, and store the vodka in a cool, dark place for at least 3 months.
- Makes about 1½ cups (375 mL).