You start with some cranberries cooked slightly in a simple syrup,
cooled and muddled with citrus fruits, steeped with gin and sherry,
strained, poured over crushed ice
and then topped with a sprig of mint.
This year, my cookie exchange morphed into a Cookies and Cocktail Party, since not all my friends are bakers. That way, they could bring savory instead of sweet. The cocktail part was a bit of an adventure, as I'd never ever mixed a cocktail before. Until last week, I didn't even own a cocktail shaker!
I planned for two cocktails, but being The World's Slowest Mixologist, I scrapped the plans for the Whiskey Sour. (Note to self — should practice new recipe several times before doing it at a party.) Fortunately, the women weren't big drinkers, and only a few wanted the cranberry cobbler, so pinot noir, pinot grigio and apple cider filled in the rest of the drinks menu.
Gin is a spirit with a pronounced herbal flavor, mostly derived from juniper berries. I found the gin to be a bit strong and ended up topping it off with (sacrilege here!) cranberry juice, having run out of the fresh syrup. Definitely taste the final product before serving and adjust if necessary. If you would like a mocktail, substitute tonic soda or spicy ginger ale for the gin and sherry.
from Bon Appetit, December 2011
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 lemon, cut into wedges
½ orange, sliced into thin rounds
1½ cups London dry gin
½ cup off-dry Sherry
6 mint sprigs
cranberry juice, if needed
Bring sugar and ¾ cup water to a boil in a medium sauce pan; stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour off all but 1 cup simple syrup; refrigerate remaining syrup for another use.
Heat syrup in pan almost to a boil' reduce heat to medium. Add cranberries and simmer until they just begin to burst, 2-3 minutes. Let cool in syrup.
Place 2 Tbsp. drained cranberries and 6 Tbsp. cranberry syrup in a large pitcher. Add lemon wedges and orange slices. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, vigorously mash fruit. Stir in gin and Sherry. Let steep for 5 minutes.
Strain into a medium pitcher. Fill 3 glasses with crushed ice. Pour half of mixture into a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice; shake vigorously for 10 seconds. This is where I tasted and added more cranberry juice. Strain into prepared glasses, then mound with more crushed ice. Garnish each with a mint sprig and 3 cranberries. Repeat to make 3 more cocktails.
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