Cranberries Aren’t Just for Sauce

November 30, 2020 Updated: November 30, 2020

Thanksgiving has passed, but that’s no reason to stop eating cranberries.

These pert and tart berries are a welcome addition and decorative garnish throughout the year, and especially brighten up a winter table during the frosty holiday season. Their bright ruby color practically screams celebration, livening up salads and sauces, desserts, and cocktails, and their pucker-y tartness easily complements sweet and savory dishes.

Need inspiration?

While a good ol’ cranberry sauce is the go-to accompaniment to turkey, you can also add cranberries to chutneys, salsas, and relishes. Blitz or cook them down with savory ingredients, such as peppers, onions, ginger, and dried fruit to accompany red meat, game, and pork.

Blitz cranberries into marinades. Their astringent tartness will work wonders as a flavorful meat tenderizer.

Add tart cranberries to fruity desserts, such as pies, crisps, and cobblers. They pair well with apples, pears, quince, and dried fruit. Their tartness will make the dessert pop, and nicely balance the sugar and sweetness of the fruit.

Did anyone say chocolate? Cranberries love chocolate (who or what doesn’t?). Fold them into dark chocolate cakes, bark, and bars, or simply dip and coat them in chocolate for a dangerously easy nibble to eat.

Add them to cocktails and mock-tails. Use them to flavor simple syrup, infuse vodka, muddle into mixed drinks, or simply float a few berries as a colorful garnish.

And while we’re on the subject of drinks, this is a bright and festive cocktail that will carry you through the holiday season. The berry’s cheek-sucking tartness provides contrast to the warmth and spice of honeyed bourbon, acting as a natural bitter, if you will. The berries are incorporated in three ways: in a cinnamon-infused syrup, muddled with citrus and mint, and then added in frozen form for colorful bling.

Cranberry-Bourbon Citrus Smash
This bright and festive bourbon cocktail incorporates cranberries in three ways. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Cranberry-Bourbon Citrus Smash

Makes one cocktail

For the Cranberry-Orange Simple Syrup

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 2 strips orange peel

For the Cocktail

  • 3 to 4 fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 to 4 mint leaves
  • 1 lime quarter
  • 1 orange slice
  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce Cranberry-Orange Simple Syrup
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Ice cubes

Make the simple syrup: Combine the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cranberries break down, about 15 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing down on the cranberry pulp. Discard the solids. Cool the syrup to room temperature. (The simple syrup may be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to one month.)

Make the cocktail: Combine the cranberries, mint, lime, and orange slice in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add the bourbon and Cointreau, and then add the remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously and pour into a tall glass or strain into a rocks glass. Serve with whole fresh or frozen cranberries, lime wedges, and mint sprigs.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Lynda studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2020 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrew McMeel Syndication.