Cranberries are amazing little berries. Absurdly packed with antioxidants, low in sugar, and more tart than most citrus. Cranberry Vodka was also the first true infusion I ever had–at a Russian Restaurant many many years ago.
Cranberries pose a bit of a challenge. Those berries are essentially waterproof. You could add the berries and a month later nothing would happen. Tips on working around this dillema range from briefly microwaving them, lighting scoring each berry (if you have way too much time on your hands), or lightly crushing them.
I found a much lazier and simpler way. When water freezes, it forms millions of little razor shaped ice crystals. When a fruit is frozen, these razors slice it up at cellular level.
For almost all produce, freezing offers several benefits: it’ll infuse faster, frozen produce you buy at the store is often flash frozen at the peak of freshness, frozen produce is often cheaper. The big disadvantage with frozen produce is usually the loss of texture (which is moot since the point of infusing to to remove all non-spirity texture entirely). The other depends on your aesthetic: frozen components will generally produce a cloudier end result, one that’s often tougher to strain properly.
In cranberry’s case, you end up with a richly dark red infusion. Cranberries in general benefit from a bit of sugar to bring out the flavor. But be cautious, most frozen bags of cranberries have a little sugar added, usually just enough for our needs (it’s still less than a third the sugar of an equal amount of grapes).
- 1-pound cranberries, frozen (wild best if available)
- 1/2 cup sugar or to taste (optional)
- 1-quart canning jar or bottle
- Add frozen cranberries and sugar to jar.
- Fill to within an inch with vodka and shake well.
- Store in a cool, dark place for 7 days, shaking occasionally.
- Berries are OK to leave in when done or you can strain them using a basic metal kitchen strainer (it will clog a coffee filter). Store in the refrigerator and using within 6 months.
This infusion is fantastic shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. Add a dash of triple sec for a cosmo or mix with selter in a highball glass.