Nantucket Cranberry Festival
Island Cooking Nantucket Style

Crash Course on Cranberry Cocktails

by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Epernay Wine & Spirits

The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and you want to know how to recreate fall flavors into an adult libation. Here on Nantucket, look no further than the local cranberry bogs for inspiration.

You will need a couple essential tools in order to make proper cocktails. Just like a recipe used for cooking or baking, making a cocktail requires that you accurately measure the ingredients and add them to the mixture in the order directed. This will ensure your final outcome is a huge hit at the first of many dinner parties yet to come through the long winter.

Your cocktail shaker should have three pieces, just like a good suit. While you may not always use all three pieces together at the same time, as individual items they can be useful in making a cocktail. It is best to have a shaker made from metal so that it chills as you prepare your drink, helping the drink to become cold without diluting it with too much ice. The strainer portion of the shaker can be used to strain almost any liquid in the kitchen, which is handy when you have a small portion and don’t want to use a large sieve. And the top – well, did you know that it also doubles as a jigger to help you measure what you are pouring into your drink?

A muddler is very important when crushing fruit. It helps the essential oils from the skins of the fruit to be released, along with the aromatics of herbs as they react with the juice or oils of the fruits being muddled. Think of the combination of an orange wedge, cherry, sugar, and bitters for a Bourbon Old Fashioned Cocktail as a prime example. Modern muddlers that come in fancy cocktail kits are made from stainless steel with grooved nylon heads. A classic muddler will  be made out of wood, so a wooden spoon will suffice in a pinch. For either muddler, the opposite end is used to stir the libation.


Fall is the perfect time to travel to Europe and celebrate the end of another successful season here on Nantucket. This drink is inspired by some of the places we love to visit or are on our Beverage Tour Bucket List, and it’s easy to make here at home while mapping out your next adventure off-island, wherever it may be!

  • cranberries
  • orange
  • crystalized ginger
  • Aperol – (an Italian aperitivo liqueur made from an infusion of herbs & roots
    – slightly sweet, slightly bitter)
  • Lillet Blanc – (a French aperitif made just outside of Bordeaux from a secret award-winning
    recipe of local white wine grapes blended with herbs & fruits)
  • Stella Artois Hard Cidre  (made from fermented apples and does contain alcohol)
  • Peychaud’s Bitters  (created by a Frenchman of that name who settled in New Orleans –
    lighter in body than most bitters, with a sweeter taste & more floral aroma)
  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle an orange wedge and a small handful of cranberries with a one piece of crystalized ginger.
  2. Add 2 ounces of Aperol, one ounce of Lillet Blanc, four dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters and fill with ice. Cover the shaker with the strainer/lid and shake in a vigorous fashion for about 10
  3. Fill a Collins glass (a tall 12 ounce glass tumbler typically used to serve mixed drinks) with fresh ice. Remove the lid only of the shaker and strain the cocktail over the ice into the Collins glass.
  4. Top this off with approximately 4 ounces of Stella Artois Cidre in order to fill the glass to just below the rim.
  5. Garnish the drink by skewering onto a drink toothpick (longer and heartier than your usual  toothpick) a couple of cranberries and piece of crystalized ginger.


Who says you can’t drink Rosé wine anymore since summer is over? Not this #yeswayrose gal! This drink is perfect for football tailgates, fall book club meet-ups and Thanksgiving pre-meal.

  • sugar
  • crushed red pepper
  • cinnamon stick
  • whole cloves
  • whole star anise
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 apples, cored & diced
  • bottle of Clambake Rosé from California made from Syrah grapes
  • Nantucket Vineyard Non-Vintage Port
  • cranberry juice
  • Triple Eight Orange Flavored Vodka
  • orange (for garnish only)
  1. In a small saucepan, mix 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, ½ tsp crushed red pepper, one cinnamon stick, 3 whole cloves, and one star anise pod. Simmer and occasionally stir the ingredients over low heat for about 10 min. in order for the sugar to melt and the flavors of the spices to blend together.
  2. Strain the ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and discard anything not liquid.
  3. Add 2 cups of cranberries and 2 whole apples that have been cored and diced to the mixture. Cover and store overnight in the fridge.
  4. In the morning, strain the fruit but be sure to SAVE the liquid.
  5. In a large pitcher, mix the bottle of Clambake Rosé of Syrah with 1/3 C Nantucket Vineyard Non-Vintage Port, 1/3 C Triple Eight Orange Flavored Vodka, 1/3 C cranberry juice, the macerated fruit that you saved overnight, and 3/4 C of the reserved liquid mixture.
  6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Serve over ice in a stemless, reusable, recyclable GoVino Wine Glass with an orange wheel garnish.


While a Dark N’ Stormy may be your summertime fix, here is a great seasonal rendition that you can sip on while reliving your favorite Nantucket memories and booking your house for next summer.

  • Fever Tree Premium Ginger Beer
  • Gosling’s Black Seal Black Rum
  • cranberry simple syrup (see directions below)
  1. Add ice to a Collins glass. Pour in 3 ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, 1 ounce of Cranberry Simple Syrup and top with 3 ounces of Fever Tree Premium Ginger Beer. Stir with your straw and drink. It’s that simple.

How to make Cranberry Simple Syrup:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 2 ¼ C (8 ounces) of cranberries, 1 C water to a boil and add 1 C sugar. Reduce heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and cranberries are tender, but
    have not burst (about 10 minutes). Strain the liquid and reserve to use for mixing in cocktails; discard the cranberries.

Once you make a batch of the cranberry simple syrup, your cranberry cocktail possibilities are endless. Mix with Triple Eight Vodka and garnish with a lemon twist. Add a splash to dry white or sparkling wine, serve in a wine glass over ice for a spritzer. Add Bulliett Bourbon and Luxardo Cherries with an orange garnish for a modified Manhattan.

While you may not have all of these ingredients in house, they are easily available. As for the liqueur components, although you may not be familiar with, they are used in several other easy cocktail recipes and are good consumed on their own. The great news is that you don’t have to go out and harvest your own cranberries. Let’s all raise a glass to a bountiful fall!

Articles by Date from 2012