When they say holiday spirit, we all know what they mean or what we want them to mean. It’s the moment of peak merriment: somewhere after the first cocktail to commemorate having wrapped the last gift in the car on the way over, and before the fourth drink when Aunt Margaret sloshes about that time when your mom cut off her bangs -“we were just ‘pipsqueaks.”

There’s no reason we can’t be even merrier drinking beverages that are based in real fruit juices – nutrient-infused and made into luscious cocktails that help us stay strong at least until New Year’s. I made this cranberry cocktail because cranberries are abundant and affordable right now, and they produce a juice that is refreshing and heathy. I’ve enjoyed cranberry flavored drinks for years; whipped up from processed bottled juices. And that’s really a-okay because we’re busy creatures, but the real deal, from fresh cranberries, is steeped in antioxidants and C’s and A’s AND without intense quantities of sugar.

A short while ago I had visions of making my own juice from carrot to kale. I thought, I’ll drink my 3-5 daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables and maybe get my kids to ingest the liquid nutrients even from some of those vegetables on their long list of won’t-touch. That same year, for Christmas, I received a mega juicer. Hooray. And also that year, 2008, like most people, I received another Christmas gift that said we had been naughty boys and girls – a big ol’ lump of recession coal. I couldn’t muster the gumption to buy bushels of vegetables only to yield a teaspoon of juice. My juicer gathered dust.

Now that our economy is not at all in a recovery, but I’ve waited the proper amount of time and can get back to spending, I pulled out the Breville JE98XL and took her out for a spin. A concoction from my favorite radio network caught my eye (not my ear as one would think with radio, but radio is all over the internet in written form – weird) because the simple syrup was honey-based (I used raw honey) and made with quince. This quince novice quickly learned from her grocer that it is not pronounced: kince.

The recipe called for cranberry and pear juice; most likely the pears would add natural sweetness. I used pears that I had on-hand, frankly, a random assortment. The juice was delicious, but I recommend fully ripe sweet pears. I strained the juice using cheesecloth with a basic kitchen strainer at first, but a conical fine mesh strainer worked better.

The simple syrup is only not-so simple because there’s more involved to making this sweetener than the usual route of dissolving refined sugar in boiling water.

The syrup simmers all the while of juicing the fruit.

I bottled the juices and simple syrup separately to give the bartender (husband) more control (taking it when he can get it), but the juice and syrup could be combined ahead of time to making serving that much easier. Pre-mix cocktails would look awfully pretty in an iced pitcher loaded with sliced and chopped fruit.

The juice, like cranberry sauce, makes tasty smoothies the next morning for when you really don’t want to cook. Just remember to give the kids the juice without the vodka. My son poured a glass of spiked for himself and..hmm….what should I…”wait, no, stop,” I whispered. But he heard me.

Cheers to you! If you all can help me put my juicer to use with your ideas, I’d greatly appreciate it.

get juiced with cranberries & a not-so-simple syrup

3 12-oz bags fresh cranberries

6-8 pears, ripe and sweet

1 – 1 1/2 c quince not-so simple syrup (below)

vodka – 1 1/2 oz. per cocktail

Feed the cranberries and pears through a juice machine. Double strain juice through a fine-mesh strainer. I used cheese cloth and my regular strainer. Mix juice with simple syrup in a pitcher, and refrigerate.

To serve, put a few fresh cranberries in the glass, add ice, then desired amount of vodka. Pour the cranberry juice over and stir. We first made this cocktail much like a Cosmopolitan by shaking with ice and serving without ice. But, I think it tasted better if the drink maintains the chill and even dilutes slightly, so we recommend serving over ice.

Cook’s Options use prepared cranberry juice – low sugar please. Use unsweetened apple juice if pear juice isn’t available. If you don’t have a juicer, but want to make fresh juice, blend cranberries and peeled/cored pears in a blender and strain juice as mentioned above. OR for the really clever, take your fresh fruit to a juice outlet (jamba juice, whole foods, etc.) and beg them to juice your fruit for you.

not-so-simple, but oh-so delicious quince syrup

I recommend making a double batch that yields 3 cups of syrup because if you go to the trouble to make this healthy simple syrup, have extra on hand for future fresh fruit cocktails.

2 cups raw honey

4 cups water

6 medium quince, peeled, cored, and sliced

In a medium pot, combine honey, water and quince. Bring to a boil and the reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes until fruit is soft and juices fully released. Remove from heat and strain out the quince. Let cool before using.

Cook’s Options If you can’t find quince, then use a mixture of tart apples and less sweet pears. Use regular honey instead of raw.

2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth says Dec 14th 2010 3:00 pm

    Can you buy quince syrup for those who really want to minimize effort?

    • Sherri says Dec 14th 2010 6:54 pm

      I don’t think it’s available as a simple syrup for beverages, at least from my sources, but if really crunched for time, you can make the simple syrup from sugar, or if you’re me in need of a quick sugar free boost, just throw in a little Equal, Sweet ‘n Low, or Splenda.

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