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A liqueur is a sweetened alcoholic beverage that often incorporates fruit and sugar with an alcoholic beverage such as brandy or cognac. Cranberry liqueur is one that combines raw cranberries with an alcohol — often vodka. Depending on the region and the individual blender's tastes, additional ingredients in such beverages vary.
Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, providing 10 percent of the daily adult requirement per half-cup serving. Liqueur made with cranberries will have less vitamin C, because of the amount of alcohol and water in the finished drink. The convenience of commercial cranberry liqueur also can mean that the consumer gets less nutritional benefit from it, because commercially prepared cranberry liqueur might start with fresh cranberries or with packaged cranberry syrup. While the resulting liqueur may be less nutritional, a manufacturer that uses syrup will benefit by not needing to use labor or have equipment on hand to crush cranberries before mixing them with the alcohol.
Vodka is a liquor that often appears in cranberry liqueur recipes. It is a popular choice because the clear liquor does not have a flavor or aroma that overpowers the taste of cranberries. Other liquors that may be used include gin and cognac.
To make cranberry liqueur, one starts by creating a syrup of water and sugar. After one brings the syrup to the boiling point, it must cool completely. Cranberries can be crushed in a food processor or blender and then combined with the alcohol and syrup in a bowl. Transferring the mixture to bottles or jars with airtight caps or lids is the last step in the process.
Homemade cranberry liqueur does not require fermentation, because the alcohol that one uses has already finished curing. It is, however, necessary to allow time for the flavor of the fruit to permeate the liquor. One then strains the fruit out to clarify the finished liqueur.
It is necessary to store cranberry liqueur from three to five weeks, until the flavor of the fruit melds with the liquor. It also is necessary to shake the mixture daily during this time. The container should be kept in a cool dark place, such as under the sink or on a pantry shelf.
Cranberry liqueur will keep for a year without refrigeration. One can serve it chilled as a cocktail or use it to enhance other bar creations. Adding a splash or two to champagne elevates both ingredients. This homemade liqueur works well as a holiday punch ingredient and as a marinade for other fruits.