Homemade cranberry orange syrup takes this standby cocktail up a notch. Cranberry Juice, Grand Marnier, Orange juice and cranberry orange syrup combine to make a festive winter cocktail. There is a non-alcoholic mocktail version as well!
I know what you’re thinking. A cosmo, Meghan? Really? Cosmos have been uncool since Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big broke up for the 47th time. And do you know what I say to you? I really don’t care how cool or not cool cosmos are, because they are delicious. Also you have to keep in mind that I turned 21 in 2002 (ahem) and the very first drink I ordered at a bar was a cosmo, mostly because I had no idea what to order. And I loved it, and it has remained my standby cocktail to this day. I maintain that cosmos were ruined by mass-produced sugary syrups, but when made right they are cocktail perfection. Join me in bringing back the cosmo!
This is actually not a classic cosmo, I’ve changed it up a bit to give it a winter twist. This is a perfect holiday party cocktail, because it has the wintery flavors of cranberry and orange, some fancy seeming ingredients, and an optional cute garnish. One rule about making good cocktails is that you really need to use fresh, high quality ingredients in order to make something that tastes really good. Always use fresh squeezed juice if possible, and homemade syrups will really improve your cocktail game. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I have a thing for making syrups. This is because 1.) They taste so much better than anything you can buy at the store 2.) you can make pretty much any flavor you can think up 3.) it is sooooo easy.
When I wanted to make a cute garnish for this drink, I remembered the sugared cranberries I saw over on the gorgeous blog Vanilla and Bean. I wanted to make them instantly, but I didn’t get around to it until when I was making this cocktail. I didn’t really want to make a big batch, I only wanted a few for garnish. To make them, toss some cranberries in a little of the cranberry orange syrup, then let them sit in the syrup for 10 minutes. Allow them to drain on a wire rack for an hour, then toss them in some sugar. Let them sit out on the wire rack for another hour if possible, then thread them onto some bamboo picks. I found they were easier to thread onto the picks if they had been able to sit out and harden for at least an hour. Also make a few extra cranberries because sometimes they pop when you are threading them onto the picks. This garnish is totally optional but I thought it was really pretty (also, they taste good!).
One great thing about homemade syrups is that they also make great mocktails! If you want to make drinks that kids can enjoy, or anyone who doesn’t want to drink alcohol, I have included a non alcoholic version below. It can be really hard to find mocktails that are as fun and festive as alcoholic cocktails, but this one fits the bill. A great way to make a mocktail taste a little more “cocktaily” is to add a dash of bitters. Bitters can be found at most liquor stores and they have become very popular lately. Many stores sell them in a variety of flavors. They are great to add to cocktails to give it another dimension of flavor, and they do the same for mocktails. Some bitters do contain alcohol, so if you are avoiding alcohol keep that in mind. For most people this is fine because it is just a drop or two of bitters diluted in a drink, but if you strictly cannot drink alcohol I would suggest looking for alcohol free bitters. The brand I use is Fee Brothers, which, incidentally, is alcohol free. (that is an affiliate link, but as always I only recommend things I love!)
To make the syrup, use a vegetable peeler to peel the zest off of one orange. Normally I use a microplane to zest citrus, but I prefer to use a peeler here rather than a zester. Why, you ask? Because I wanted them in large strips, and also I wanted to make sure that I got the zest only, and left behind the white pith, as it is very bitter. When you are using orange zest you have to be very careful because it can turn your mixture bitter very easily. THIS is the vegetable peeler I use, and I really can not recommend it highly enough. Seriously. If you have a dull peeler, drop everything and order this peeler right away. (affiliate link).
Combine the cranberries, orange zest, sugar and orange juice in a pan and bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing with a spoon to mash the cranberries and get all the liquid out. This makes about 4 ounces, so if you want more than that go ahead and double everything EXCEPT for the orange zest, leave that the same.
Cranberry Orange Cosmo
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce Grand Marnier
- 1 ounce cranberry juice
- 1 ounce cranberry orange syrup see below
- 1/2 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
- To make the sugared rim, dip the rim of the glass into the cranberry orange syrup, then dip into sugar.
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold. Pour into martini glass and serve right away.
Cranberry Orange Syrup
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice from one orange
- zest of one orange
- Using a vegetable peeler, carefully zest the orange in large strips, being careful to leave behind the white pith. Then juice the orange.
- Combine zest, cranberries, sugar and orange juice in a saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure sugar is dissolved. When mixture reaches a simmer, remove from heat.
- Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Don't let it sit longer or it may become bitter. Strain to remove solids and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator .
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