an assortment of fruit
Winterfest Cordial
CB McWhorter

1 bag fresh cranberries
Peels of 2 oranges, scraped of white pith (or just use thin-skinned oranges)
6 inches stick cinnamon
1 quart vodka

Pound the cranberries in the bag with a mallet until they are a little bit cracked.  Place cracked berries, orange peels, cinnamon stick and vodka in a large clean glass jar, cover and place in a dark place for at least 8 weeks.  Shake the jar every other day or so. 

Drain off the liquor, which should be a beautiful shade of red.  Filter through a colander lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth.  Squeeze the solids to extract as much fluid as possible.  Save the solids for other uses.  I find that the berries make pretty good cranberry bread, but they also make a cranberry sauce to die for.  (I remove the orange peels and cinnamon.)  Pass the liquor through coffee filters (it usually takes more than one) to remove small particles.  This makes the resulting liqueur pretty and clear, but it also increases its shelf life. 

Wash the jar, and place the liquor back into the jar.

Make a simple syrup: Combine 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water in a small sauce pan, heat to just boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the simple syrup to the liquor and cover.  Place the jar back into its dark place and allow the cordial to mature for 3-4 weeks, shaking occasionally. 

Decant into pretty bottles for gift-giving and for easy serving.  Serve in small cordial glasses after dessert, or to visitors.  A little goes a long way...

Tips from a Topsider:

I start this in late summer so that I have the cordial ready for Christmas, and so that I have the cranberries for Thanksgiving. 

Since cranberries are hard to find in August, I buy them during the holidays and freeze them. 

Dried cranberries probably work as well as fresh (or frozen), but I don't know how much to use, and the cost seems prohibitive to me.  In desperation, I've used canned whole-berry cranberry sauce, with good results (2 cans for 1 quart vodka). 

I've done this with vodka, brandy and rum.  Vodka allows the cordial to taste most of cranberries, but you can experiment as you like.  I've also tried different brands of spirits and have found that cheap vodka/brandy/rum works just as well as expensive.

If you want a sweeter cordial, you can use a larger volume of simple syrup, just make sure the sugar:water ratio is 2:1.

There it is.  I hope William likes it.  Happy Winterfest, everyone!

cb mcwhorter