Homemade cranberry clementine vodka and a Christmas cocktail


When I was a student, we loved to play Pictionary – even more so if we could convert into a drinking game of some sort.  Of course, I always insisted on being in a team with my darling future sister-in-law Paola because a) she is a talented artist, which helps a lot; and b) we know each other so well that a single stroke of the pencil plus the appropriate facial expression can produce the correct answer – to the extent that people often thought we were cheating when we weren’t! So of course there was a lot of lobbying from our other friends to discard the writing aspect of Pictionary altogether and play a charades version instead (which we christened Actionary).  This presented a whoel  new set of challenges – yes you can draw an amoeba with relative ease, but how do you mime it?? So more often than not, when the person miming looked aghast when they read the word, the guesser would shout: “Act out the syllables!”.  And if the person miming then suddenly blushed bright red and turned all coy, the guesser would immediately shout out: “Cockpit!”, “Country!” or “Cocktail!”.  :o) Cocktail.  It’s a funny old word, isn’t it?  Apparently its earliest use had nothing to do with drinks but was an equestrian term indicating a racehorse that could not be called a thoroughbred because of some deficiency in its family tree. In the very  early 1800s, the word appeared to refer to a non-alcoholic beverage, but by 1806 it was being used to denote any alcoholic drink containing some kind of spirits, sugar, water and bitters.  Slowly, it became customary also to add a liqueur to your mixed drink and a book about mixed drinks in 1862 included chapters on punches, sours, slings, cobblers, toddies, flips – and cocktails.  All the drinks in the cocktail sub-class were apparently distinguished by the inclusion of bitters.


CranberryVodkaIngredients   Cranberries

Today, few people would remember this definition, but it is still obliquely referred to in the Old Fashioned, a cocktail that is still made with spirits, sugar, water and bitters, and named to distinguish it as being the original type of cocktail, rather than the catch-all term that cocktail has become.  Incidentally, the term “highball” was coined in the late 1800s to denote a drink that contains only a spirit and a mixer (e.g. gin and tonic) as opposed to a proper mixed cocktail.  The first cocktail party was apparently held in 1917 and our love-affair with cocktails has shown little sign of abating ever since, with cocktails becoming ever more elaborate and more creatively-named. We’ve come from the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan to the Slippery Nipple and the Corpse Reviver and mixologists around the world are no doubt working on concocting the Next Big Thing as I write this.


CranberryClementineVodkaJug   CranberryClementinevodkaglass


I have to admit that at Cooksister HQ, our drinks run more to highballs in the form of a restoravite G&T or a warming whisky with a splash of water, but at Christmastime when we have lots of visitors I like to greet them with a Christmas cocktail that’s a little special.  Last year it was all about the Sloe Lovin’ made with Champagne and sloe gin but in their endless wisdom our council has chopped down all our sloe bushes, so this year I had to think of an alternative. Fresh cranberries are a seasonal treat, appearing in UK supermarkets from about the end of November and I had never thought to make anything but cranberry sauce with them, but inspired by Helen’s post, I decided to try my hand at making come Christmassy cranberry vodka.  Cranberries are a natural match for clementines, another seasonal favourite, and warming Christmas spices are essential to add warmth and depth.  As cranberries are rather tart, I added quite a bit of sugar which will leave you with an end result rather more like a liqueur than a crisp fruit vodka, but you could experiment with using different amounts of sugar. For me, the richly coloured liqueur-like end result was perfect to use in a refreshing cocktail with tonic water and cranberry juice, known around here as the Christmastini. I can think of no better drink to enliven a festive game of Pictionary (or Actionary!) with friends.  Cheers!




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5.0 from 8 reviews
Homemade cranberry clementine vodka and a Christmas cocktail
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This easy recipe for homemade cranberry clementine vodka makes a great Christmas gift - and the base for a refreshign Christmastini cocktail!
Recipe type: Cocktail
Cuisine: Christmas
Serves: 750ml
  • about 300g fresh cranberries
  • peel of 1 whole clementine
  • 75g sugar
  • 750ml vodka
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 whole cloves
  • You will need a 1 litre capacity jar or bottle with a wide neck and a tight-fitting lid.
  • 25ml cranberry clementine vodka
  • cranberry juice
  • tonic water
  • clementine zest
  • ice
  1. Rinse the cranberries and use the tip of a sharp knife to score or prick each one (you can also crush some lightly if you are in a hurry).
  2. Peel a clementine and reserve the peel. Cut into strips and using a very sharp knife, scrape off as much of the white pith on the back of the beel as you can, leaving just the orange skin.
  3. Place the cranberries, peel, spices, sugar and vodka into a large jar with a tight-fitting lid (I saved a giant 1 litre pickle jar for this!). Close lid tightly and give it a good shake to start dissolving the sugar.
  4. Keep sealed in a cool, dark place and shake the bottle at least once a day until all the sugar has dissolved (should take less than a week). Once the sugar is dissolved you can strain and bottle immediately, but I left mine for 2 months or so to fully develop the flavours. Once strained and bottled, this makes an excellent gift, or can keep pretty much indefinitely in your drinks cabinet (if you don't finish it first!).
  6. In the bottom of a pretty glass, pour 25 ml of vodka over crushed ice. Top up the rest of the class with ⅓ cranberry juice and ⅔ tonic water. Garnish with clementine zest and serve immediately.

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  1. says

    I love pictionary… :) It’s always such an hilarious and silly game to play! And boy you have me literally drooling over this cocktail. I’m a huge fan of cranberries and not so much of cocktails of the normal kind but this one… this one I am so gonna try!

  2. says

    Oh my…Pictionary! I used to love that game but it’s been too long. Bet I have it in a box stored in the basement; probably one of those with dolls and games I assume my kids will want someday…but now wondering why I would give it away?!!

    Lovely cocktail; I LOVE cranberries in food and drink so you know I’ll try this. Thanks too for including my rosemary gin fizz. I always think I will be sad when summer cocktail making is over but then I forget about cranberries and pomegranates and blood oranges. It’s still fun. :)

  3. says

    I used to love playing Pictionary too, when I was a child. There were no cocktails involved though! I had no idea about the history of its name – a very educational post! Your delicious recipe makes me want to show up on your doorstep to try it! Yum! :)

  4. Lynn says

    What a fun story- made me laugh! Using cranberries is a brilliant idea- that Christmas cocktail looks rather worthy. I want one (and the beautiful glass sporting it too!)

  5. says

    My brothers and I would clean up on Pictionary too. We spent so much time together that we could guess anything with ease. :-) Cocktail is a hilarious word. :-) And I think this Christmas cocktail sounds fantastic. :-)

  6. says

    I am sure this would help to get the Xmas game of charades going! I love cranberries and have been using them loads this year. I will be making some of this delicious sounding vodka and think that flavoured vodkas make such a good present too.

  7. says

    Oh yes to cocktails always and then of course game nights where the cocktails are always best to drink! I totally love Pictionary too and we used to play it often. I think I will have to remove the dust from it and bring it out this Christmas!

  8. says

    This year I have really got into cocktails – but seem to have stuck with gin based ones. But then I realise I have a bottle of vodka in the bottom of the freezer! This one I shall be trying.

  9. says

    Boy oh boy this sounds so good, Jeanne. I am relatively new to homemade drinks like this but I recently made and decanted a pomegranate-vanilla vodka made with Ren’s recipe and it was so successful I was thinking of doing a nippier one with cranberry. So, you have saved me experimenting. Pinning for another pleasant liqueur making session. :-)