November 13, 2003


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Thanksgiving’s a few weeks away. This means lots of food, and lots of wine. Thanksgiving dinner, for the most part, consists of the same dishes each year (turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc). Traditionally, our families gather on Thanksgiving for the sole purpose of eating an enormous dinner. It is also a chance to see friends and family members who we might not see very often.

With this in mind, serving cocktails before dinner is a very good idea. Having cocktails before dinner provides an opportunity for everyone to socialize and converse, just before they indulge in a large amount of Tryptophan and fall asleep. For those who are not familiar with Tryptophan and wonder why you tend to feel sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner, here’s why. Turkey contains a large amount of Tryptophan, which is an essential amino-acid found in plant and animal proteins. It also happens to be the precursor from which our brains make serotonin, which calms you down and makes you sleepy.

In this week’s column, I will be offering some ideas for Thanksgiving cocktails using fresh cranberries as the theme. Cranberries are very versatile with cocktails, and provide a pleasant flavor profile of sweetness and tartness that pairs well with many spirits.

A brief note on cranberries: along with the blueberry and Concord grape, the cranberry is one of North America’s three native fruits that are commercially grown. Cranberries were first used by Native Americans, who discovered the wild berry’s versatility as a food, fabric dye and healing agent. The name “cranberry” is derived from the Pilgrim name for the fruit, “craneberry,” which came about from the small, pink blossoms that appear in the spring and resemble the head and bill of a Sandhill crane.

Each of the following recipes are made with fresh cranberry juice. In preparing cocktails made with fresh cranberry juice, the cranberries should be cooked first. To do this properly, add 2 cups fresh cranberries, 2 cups of water, and a 1/2 cup granulated sugar to a saucepan. On medium heat, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer. After the liquid is strained, use a wooden spoon to extract any remaining liquid from the cranberries. Then, disregard the remains of the cranberries and chill the juice in the fridge for at least an hour. This recipe will make up to 6 cocktails.

Cranvini — 8 Servings


1 Bottle Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine from Veneto)

2 Cups fresh cranberry juice (see recipe)

8 Fresh cranberries

To prepare:

1. Pour 2 ounces of fresh cranberry juice into each glass (preferably champagne flutes or white wine glasses).

2. Top each glass off with 3 ounces of Prosecco.

3. Garnish each glass with a fresh cranberry by placing in the glass just before serving.

Cranjito — 4 Servings


2 Limes cut into eighths

2 Cups fresh cranberry juice (see recipe)

4 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Cup of Rum

4 Sprigs of fresh mint

Club soda

To prepare:

1. In highball glasses (tall glasses) place 4 pieces of lime, 1 sprig of mint, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, and 2 ounces of rum.

2. With a wooden spoon, muddle or crush the ingredients until will blended.

3. Add three cubes of ice to each glass, and top off with 4 ounces of fresh cranberry juice and a generous splash of club soda. Stir well and serve.

Cran-Apple-Bourbon Cocktails — 4 Servings


1 Cup apple cider

2 Cups fresh cranberry juice (see recipe)

1 Cup Bourbon

To prepare:

1. In an ice cube tray, pour in apple cider and freeze into cubes (about 1 hour).

2. In rocks glasses (short glasses) add 2 apple cider ice cubes and 2 ounces of bourbon.

3. Top each glass off with 4 ounces of fresh cranberry juice, stir well and serve.

Archived article by stephen asprinio