By: Kirk Estopinal, a Partner of New Orleans’ James Beard Award-winning bar Cure and beloved Caribbean restaurant and bar Cane & Table.
One year, I was thinking up different holiday drinks I could make, just jotting down as many ideas as I could before I could test one, and I came up with a cranberry shrub, which is basically cranberries cooked with vinegar and a little bit of sugar and spice. When you make it, it’s exactly like making cranberry sauce—I basically took my Thanksgiving cranberry sauce recipe and then I added a healthy portion of rice wine vinegar to it.
This drink, which I call Cranberry Sauce 75, is just about a half ounce of the shrub with a glass of nice, dry Champagne and a cinnamon stick or lemon twist for garnish. You can decorate it with an artful eye however you like.
The idea was a drink that you could make and you could serve literally 50 of them at your Thanksgiving or Christmas event. It’s very easy to build. It doesn’t require any bartending skill. You can just put the bottle down, and people can pour as much as they want in the glass and top it off with Champagne or sparkling wine.. It’s tasty, and it works well on ice or up—it just depends on how you like it. Personally, I like all Champagne drinks on ice.
I think those mid-priced but well-made French sparkling wines that are not classically Champagne work really well for cocktails—something like a reputable Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant du Jura, or Crémant de Bourgogne. I’m a big fan of the retail $30 price range for Champagne drinks. You want something that’s tasty and a little bit toasty and bready with that yeasty nose. Or if it has more of a beef minerality, with a well-cooked steak kind of taste, I think those really work well in drinks because they have this astringency and dryness in the finish. You can throw a little sugar at them, and in the end, you get that nice little luscious feeling, but it’s also dried out at the end so you want to drink more of them and you don’t feel like you’re drinking syrup.
With this drink, you for sure want to have some sort of aromatic on top of it—a lemon twist or a cinnamon stick or even a little grate of cinnamon is fine—because not everybody enjoys the smell of vinegar when they drink.
This sparkling cocktail is sure to make spirits bright at your holiday dinners.
- ½ ounce Cranberry Sauce Shrub (recipe follows)
- Dry sparkling wine, chilled
- Garnish: cinnamon stick, lemon twist
- In a cocktail glass, place Cranberry Sauce Shrub. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with cinnamon stick and lemon twist, if desired.
- 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen cranberries, thawed
- 1 quart water
- ½ quart rice wine vinegar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
- Peels of 2 lemons and 1 orange, cut with a Y-peeler, pith removed
- 4 cups sugar
- In a large saucepan, combine cranberries, 1 quart water, vinegar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, lemon peels, and orange peel. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off heat, and stir in sugar until combined. Strain using a fine-mesh sieve, pressing cranberries lightly; discard solids. Let cool completely. Refrigerate in an airtight jar for up to 1 week.