Like so many, my childhood memory of cranberries is centered on the canned, jellied version of cranberry sauce. I can’t say I hated it, but I just don’t care for anything ‘jelloish’; preferring jam in a heartbeat to jelly. Still I was unprepared for how much I would LOVE cranberry sauce made from scratch. Talk about easy..it’s a mystery why anyone would have ever thought to can berries as a gelatinized sauce in the first place. Cranberry sauce is easy, having the mouth feel of whole berries is a huge plus and not to be discounted? The resulting dish is beyond compare to anything you can purchase at the market and the opportunity to put your own spin on it is limitless.
Ever since that fateful year that I decided to experiment with fresh cranberries, I’ve come to really enjoy the holidays and the availability of this beautiful fruit. As a faithful Costco member, the abundance of berries in my home after shopping there gives me ample opportunity to try several dishes. I absolutely must try a new version of cranberry sauce each year with some hits and some misses. Everyone who has had my Merlot Cranberry Sauce with Toasted Walnuts loves it as much as I do. However, no one got to even try the Asian version I made one year with jalapeno and Chinese Five Spice; it just did not cut it for me and I sure wasn’t going to serve it to anyone else. Sob.
This year I decided to incorporate the ingredients from a favorite cocktail, the Cosmopolitan, substituting the water typically used in cooking the cranberries with vodka. During the process of preparing this dish, I had a moment of thinking I had done this before…one of those deja vu moments when something seemed so familiar. And then I remembered that indeed I had; however that attempt had the vodka added after the cranberries were cooked down and it was just a bit too harsh for my tastes. So I continued with my attempt this year which required cooking the vodka and cranberries together. What a difference. It’s hard to explain but the taste of vodka is not so evident as just a cooler, crisper result to the overall product. Love at first bite.
So, this is not ‘really’ a cocktail and because I hate to disappoint…take a bit of these berries and some of the juices, add a splash of Grand Marnier and some chilled vodka or Spanish cava and voila; a new and unique holiday cocktail is quickly in hand!