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Festive cranberries add zing to a cocktail

Chicago Tribune
Don't put all the cranberries in the sauce: Save some for a cocktail.

It's a happy time for the humble cranberry. Not only does it radiate joy with the most gorgeous crimson color, it also has hit new heights of popularity as we learn to appreciate food and drinks that are moderately tart rather than super sweet.

Best of all, our bodies naturally crave healthy ingredients, and the cranberry counts as one. The cancer-preventive benefits of cranberries are reported to be broad while their antioxidants can also fight tooth cavities, urinary tract infection and inflammatory diseases. Aside from the health benefits, cranberries add the sought-after zing to a cocktail that can take the place of a squeeze of citrus.

While the cranberry season is short, typically October through December, this tiny native American wetland fruit (it is grown in bogs) can occasionally have a longer growing season that begins in April. Fortunately, mixologists have access to the fruit far beyond the season, thanks to dried cranberries.

"Cranberries add a festive flair to holiday cocktails due to their intense red coloring," says mixologist Johnny Swet of Jimmy at The James Chicago. "For cocktails that include cranberries or cranberry juice, I try to even out the tart flavor with something sweet or spicy to create a smooth finish for the drink."

In his Plymouth Rock cocktail, for example, the cranberry juice's tart crispness is rounded off by the poached cinnamon and rosemary that add a warming sweet spice note. When you add the sparkling rose it gives the drink a nice, sparkling finish.

The cocktail has a festive holiday feel without being excessive, and it can be enjoyed from autumn through Thanksgiving and into the Christmas season.

The Plymouth Rock

Makes: 1 cocktail

¼ cup cranberries

½ cup water

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 1/2 ounces vodka

1 ounce cranberry juice

1 ounce sparkling rose wine

Simmer the cranberries, water, cinnamon and 2 rosemary sprigs in a small saucepan until the cranberries begin to soften, 6-8 minutes. Allow to cool. Strain, reserving the poaching liquid and cranberries separately and discarding the rosemary.

Pour vodka, cranberry juice and 1/2 ounce of the poaching liquid into a cocktail shaker with ice; shake until ice cold. Strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Top off with sparkling rose. Garnish with poached cranberries and a rosemary sprig.

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