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Homemade Cranberry Bitters

Perhaps the ultimate holiday ingredient, cranberries add a pop of brightness to everything from turkey platters to party punches, and in this easy DIY bitters recipe, they’re the star of the show. Portland bartender Doug Derrick’s formula fuses fresh cranberries with orange peel, bittering botanicals and a bouquet of seasonal spices for the perfect holiday ingredient (and gift).


  • 32 oz. fresh cranberries
  • Peels of 5 oranges, pith removed
  • 5 oz. grain alcohol
  • 3 oz. vodka
  • ½ tsp. quassia chips*
  • 1 tsp. gentian root powder*
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 10 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • Tools:3 1-liter glass jars, Wooden spoon, Muslin tea pouch (optional), Cheesecloth, Kitchen twine, Rubber gloves, Saucepan, Jelly bag (optional), Whisk, Individual bottles


*You can find these in the bulk section of your local natural-foods store, or online at mountainroseherbs.com.

Step 1 Dehydrate the cranberries and orange peel in a 200 degree F. oven with the door slightly ajar for 2 hours (or until they start to shrivel). Let cool.

Step 2 In a large glass jar, combine the cranberries, orange peel, grain alcohol and vodka. Using a wooden spoon, press down on the fruit until completely submerged. Cover and keep in a cool, dark spot for 2 weeks, stirring daily.

Step 3 Wrap the quassia, gentian, star anise and cinnamon stick in a muslin tea pouch or double layer of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine. Add to the jar and let infuse for another 2 weeks, stirring daily.

Step 4 Wearing rubber gloves, strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth into a clean glass jar, squeezing out all the liquid with your gloved hands as you go (reserve the solids). Cover the jar.

Step 5 In a medium saucepan, bring the macerated cranberries, orange peel, spice pouch and cranberry juice to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and let cool. Pour into a clean glass jar, cover and set aside for 1 week, stirring daily.

Step 6 Wearing rubber gloves, strain the contents of the two jars into one large jar, squeezing the fruit and spice sack as you go, and avoiding any sediment at the bottom of either jar. Discard the solids and let the jar sit for 1 week, undisturbed.

Step 7 After 1 week, strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or jelly bag, avoiding any sediment at the bottom. Whisk in the sugar and funnel into individual bottles.

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