Winter in the Midwest can be both beautiful and fierce. There are days that boast sunshine and snowy hills that beg to be slid down, and ponds smooth as glass that beckon you to skate until you can no longer feel your toes. You haven’t lived until you’ve adventured in a winter wonderland, calm and peaceful where animals slumber and the earth covered in a fresh blanket of snow.
But then there are days when the wind is so fierce it cuts like freshly sharpened knives the moment it touches your skin. Where temperatures drop too far below zero and the best adventures are meant to be had inside, surrounded by laughter and cuddles of those you love most.
On such nights as these, I adore curling up on the couch watching cooking re-runs or playing a game of scrabble with my husband – a night cap in hand.
Even though temperatures outside can chill to the bone, I don’t always gravitate to hot drinks to keep warm. It’s the flavors of this drink that warm the insides combined with memories of every holiday, November to February. The cranberry and citrus are reminiscent of Thanksgiving, the juniper from the gin represents Christmas, and the bold red color perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Sip it with those of whose company you enjoy most! As with all infused liquor, the longer you let the flavors infuse, the better. I recommend a minimum of 5 days, with best results from 10-14 days.
As a side note, this infusion works beautifully in vodka or an aged rum as well. Mix the drinks the same method noted below or shake over ice and drink straight up in martini fashion.
If you’re feeling really fancy, throw a sprig of rosemary as garnish; it provides great aromatics and enhancement to the gin.
For the infused gin
- 1 lb bag of fresh organic cranberries, setting aside a few for garnish
- The juice from 5 oranges (blood oranges would be lovely as well)
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup, medium amber
- 1 liter Gin (note: use your favorite. I used Plymouth, but I would not advise Hendricks due to the cucumber notes.)
For the cocktail
- 2 oz. of the infused gin
- 2 oz. of sparkling water
- 1 oz freshly squeezed orange juice (don’t used store bought juice! It’s the sweet + pure juice from the fruit that makes the drink.)
- Orange slice for garnish
- Reduce the cranberries, freshly squeezed orange juice + maple syrup in a saucepan on medium/medium-low for 10 minutes until the berries have split, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer the reduction to a large glass container (I used a large mason jar) and pour the gin over. Gently stir and cover with the lid. Let infuse for 5-14 days, gently swirling occasionally.
- Strain the infused gin over a fine sieve and place in a glass vessel of your choosing.
- To make the cocktail: fill a low ball with ice. Measure out 2 ounces of the infused gin and pour over ice. Add the 1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice and top with sparkling water. Garnish with cranberries + an orange slice (rosemary sprig optional) and serve.