Rod’s Rocket Fuel | Cranberry Mint Julep

Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday of the year. My sister and I have spent many years cooking Thanksgiving dinner together, but in the last dozen years, we have started to celebrate Thanksgiving on Wednesday. When our adult children started to have families, it was difficult to compete with all the places to go and people to see, so we just got going early and decided that the Brown family Thanksgiving was now going to be Wednesday evening.  We are lucky to get most of them now. And it is a great start to the holiday: we now get to lie around on Thursday watching football games and eating leftovers.

Cranberries have always been part of Thanksgiving, but when I was a kid they got a bad rap. The gelatinous mess coming out of a can did not rock my world.  Here is my preferred way to incorporate that special berry into your holiday gathering: The Cranberry Mint Julep. 

Cranberry Syrup:

  • ¾ cup of fresh cranberries
  • Zest from ½ a lime
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cups water

Combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil.

Turn the temperature down to a low boil and add the lime zest and the cranberries, bring back to a boil, and when the cranberries split open, take them off the burner and cool to room temperature. 

Do not boil the cranberries to mush. Most will split open but still hold their shape.

Once at or near room temperature, cover and chill in the refrigerator. The syrup will thicken and take on a bright red color.  The syrup should be cool in 30 minutes or so, but to be safe, prepare this a few hours before you make the cocktail.

Cranberry Mint Julep:

Muddle a few mint leaves in a shaker and squeeze the juice from the lime you used for the zest into the shaker with a handful of  ice cubes.  You should have about 1 ½ ounces of lime juice to balance the sweet of the cranberry syrup.

Add 2+ ounces of good bourbon or Rye. I like a little extra, but you decide what is best.

Add approx. 1 ½ ounces of the cranberry syrup. Be careful as it may become too sweet if you go overboard.

Shake vigorously, strain over ice, and add garnish of a few fresh cranberries, a slice of lime bent and run around the rim, and a sprig or leaf of mint.

Optional: Add a tiny dash of Peach Schnapps if you want to play around.

I like to use plenty of bourbon and taste a hint of the mint, and try to balance the lime and cranberry syrup for a not-too-sweet taste. As with all recipes, adjust to your taste have fun playing around with it.

Rod Brown is a Piedmont resident who loves his cocktail hour.

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