There are many things you can make at home that are fantastic holiday gifts. I’m always a big advocate for homemade food gifts, such as plates of cookies or nicely wrapped loaves of bread. But food gifts typically need to be used right away and it is nice to give something that has a slightly longer shelf life – like homemade flavored spirits. Making your own flavored vodka, rum or bourbon is easier than you might think and a jar of one of these special spirits makes a great hostess gift for holiday parties – and a nice addition to any holiday parties you might be throwing yourself!
This Homemade Cranberry Vanilla Vodka is easy to make and captures some of my favorite flavors of the holiday season. It starts by cooking cranberries with a little sugar and vanilla, then adding the mixture to a generous measure of vodka to infuse it with cranberry flavor. It needs to sit for 1-3 days for the best flavor, then it should be strained through a fine sieve to remove any bits of cooked cranberry and ensure that the finished spirit is clear. After straining, I add back in the vanilla bean and repackage the vodka with whole (fresh) cranberries for a beautiful finished look.
There is sugar in this spirit, which technically makes it a liqueur and not straight vodka, but the sugar is just there to boost the cranberry flavor and only adds the faintest hint of sweetness to the finished product. This means that you’re going to want to use this to make mixed drinks, and not to pour over ice. It is fantastic in my Cranberry Vanilla Cosmopolitans and any other cocktails that could use a boost of cranberry, like a Sea Breeze. A splash can also make a very nice addition to a strawberry, cranberry or raspberry sorbet.
This recipe uses a whole bottle of vodka, which should be enough to make two attractive gifts if you divide the mixture in half and package them in separate bottles or jars. You don’t need to start with a top shelf vodka, something inexpensive is perfectly fine and will be much tastier with the addition of vanilla and cranberry.
Homemade Cranberry Vanilla Vodka
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 750ml bottle of vodka
fresh cranberries, for packaging
In a small saucepan, cook cranberries, water and sugar over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries pop. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and add to the cranberry mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes until mixture thickens slightly.
Transfer to a large bowl or jar and add in vodka. Stir well and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and let stand for 1-3 days.
Strain mixture through a fine strainer to remove cranberry solids. Transfer vanilla bean to a new bottle or jar (If dividing the mixture into two smaller bottles, cut vanilla bean in half and put half in each finished bottle) and pour in the strained spirit, which should be clear. Finish the presentation with about a half cup of fresh, whole cranberries, if desired.
Makes 1 large bottle; 2 small bottles/jars.