Cranberry Infused Vodka

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Introduction: Cranberry Infused Vodka

About: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!


See all those fun infused sprits they have in the liquor stores? They mostly use chemicals and LSD to flavour their hooch. Personally I like the way they taste, but I thought I'd give it a try on my own.

I made a kahlua a few years back, and tried to reduce the recipe to just a 355 ml (12 oz) bottle, the outcome was a sugary liquor headache that I had never experienced before, or would want to ever again. Lesson learned: Scale down recipes properly. 'Eyeballing it' doesn't work for such a small batch.

Anyways, after countless other variations of this and other concoctions I present, Cranberry Infused Vodka.

What you need:
A mess of Cranberries
1.14 Litres (38.5 oz) of Vodka
A big jug (mine was 5 litres [169 oz])
Sanitizer
Siphon hose
Gelatine Finings
Several smaller jugs or bottles to bottle it into
Something to mash cranberries with
A cloth
White Sugar
Cheesecloth
Colander
A large container

Step 1: Gather

Acquire vodka, large jug, sanitizer, and cranberries
I managed to find this sack of crans at work. I work an office job and I showed up one day and there was a crate of these little guys just sitting there (and no, my job is so far removed from fruit, it's not even funny). So either look under your desk at work, wish, or raid a farmers field for a bunch, however you can get them, you'll need about 5 cups (5.2 cups).

The vodka I grabbed is some cheapie from the store. This tasty bevy is going to be served with other ingredients, so there's no reason to bust out for the Belvedere, but if you did I'm sure you wouldn't be disappointed.

Sanitizer can be found at any wine supply store, or U-Brew place. This is the same sanitizer used for sterilizing wine bottles, carboys, primary fermenters, and the like. I grab most of my wine stuff from Wine Kitz (free plug!).

Step 2: Wash and Sanitize

Wash your berries well; you don't know where they've been! Also cranberries are harvested by flooding the fields where they're grown. I can't speak for the rest of the world, but here they divert water from a muddy river. Wash your berries accordingly.

After you have your cranberries clean, go ahead and sanitize your big jug. Pinch some of the sanitizer and toss it in the jug, then fill halfway with cold water, attach lid and shake it like a Polaroid.
Empty. Rinse. Set aside.

Step 3: Mash Those Babies

Start popping those guys! You can use a mortar and pestle, chopping board, baseball bat, or my method: Plastic cup, back of a wooden spoon.

This takes some time as you can't do too many at once this way, I would say I was hammering away for a good 20 minutes..

Step 4: Then I Got Bored.

So I decided to use the blender. I wouldn't recommend this option for all the berries, as they just turn into pulp and seed, which isn't what we're going for. But it works well for about half.

Worth mentioning here that you should process about 2 handfuls at a time in the blender.

Step 5: When in Doubt, Add More Vodka

Mash those berries, blend them, and stuff them in the jug. This is also a tedious part, I guess it depends on how big of an opening you have. Add vodka partway through, add almost all the vodka so you don't run out of room. Then keep adding more berries until your jug is 3/4 full.

Step 6: Simple Syrup

Make simple syrup with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the same of water. Bring to a slow boil and let cool, then add it to the jug.

Step 7: Finish It Off

Add the remainder of the vodka, and top off the jug with busted cranberries until you have a full jug. Cap it off. Give it a shake, and forget about it in the closet for about a month.

(check out the awesome colour already, it'll look a deep red when we're done!)

Step 8: One Month Later

Break out the jug, along with the sanitizer, cheesecloth, a container to hold the liquid, and your trusty colander.

Sanitize your colander, and container. You want something that can hold more than the size of your jug.
Cut a small square of cheesecloth and place over opening of your jug, you want enough to cover the opening and enough to hold onto. Dump contents into large container through cheesecloth, so you keep all the bits inside the jug. Don't worry about smaller bits that make their way through, we'll catch them later.

Lay cheesecloth inside colander and dump out the remnants of the jug. Again this might be hard if your opening is small.

Step 9: Squeeze!

Grab the edges of your cheesecloth, give it a couple of twists and squeeze the heck out of it, squeeze it until your hand hurts, then maybe a take a break. Whew. Then go back and squeeze it again for good measure. How should have something like the next picture.

Strain and toss the leftovers, unless you can think of something to make with them, but they are bitter and a mess of pulp.

Clean and sanitize your empty jug, and add the strained liquid back in.
DO NOT TOP OFF WTH WATER!

Step 10: Add Finings

Gelatine finings are added to beer and wine to ensure clarity. Without getting into detail, many alcoholic beverages created are going to be cloudy, adding gelatine and bentonite to wine, beer, coolers, and yes, even liquors can help create a clear and appealing product. I have had some success with clear wine using none whatsoever, so it's a personal choice.
I've had some cloudy wine before and it tastes fine, most of it is mental, so because I am giving this away to people, they probably more likely to drink it if it looks like something they can get in a store. Feel free to discuss this (somewhat) controversial point below, I'd be interested to hear other peoples thoughts.

The stuff I used I grab from Wine Kitz, but any wine supplier will carry this stuff. While you're there why not ask them for what they would recommend for your specific project. The homemade hooch community s pretty friendly.

Add prescribed amount, in my case 1/2 a teaspoon and 1/2 cup of water, bring to a fast boil, and remove immediately. Let cool, add to jug. Forget about it for a few days, up to a week.

DO NOT TOP OFF WITH WATER.

Step 11: Hey It Worked!

Yup, as you can see from this picture we can see a definite improvement from the picture from Step 9. The gelatine is grabbing the particles that make it cloudy and settling them to the bottom! Since there are still some particles, this needs to be left for a few more days.

Step 12: Syphon and Bottle

Sanitize your bottles, siphon hose, and hour hands. Syphoning is a fun and messy skill to learn. If you have never syphoned before I recommend trying it with water first. Trust me. Possibly in your bath tub too.

For those new to this, Wiki provides us with:
"A siphon (also spelled syphon) is a continuous tube that allows liquid to drain from a reservoir through an intermediate point that is higher than the reservoir, the up-slope flow being driven only by hydrostatic pressure without any need for pumping. It is necessary that the final end of the tube be lower than the liquid surface in the reservoir."

Hold the hose horizontal, dunk one end into your mixture and suck suck suck to fill the tube with the liquid, the dump the end in your mouth into the new receptacle. Sounds easy, but takes some skill to get comfortable with and hold the pressure.
A good point to mention here is that there is sediment in your jug, a lot. And it's clumpy, gross, and tastes horrible. You're going to need a plastic elevator for your siphon hose, or just hold it about 3 inches from the bottom.

With practice you'll find the finer points of siphoning, like blocking up on side of your jug to create a larger area for you to siphon from without grabbing excess sediment.
When you get about 3 inches from the bottom simply lift the hose out of the jug above the liquid line to break the siphon. Leave the sludge, dump it down the drain. Wipe your bottles clean, and admire your handiwork. You're done!

Step 13: Aftermath

What you had before was 40% vodka, and now you have something closer to 30-35% liquor. This can be drunk on its own, but I recommend using it in place of vodka in your next martini, or as shown below, with Ginger Ale, Sprite, and a hit of lemon.

Step 14: What I Would Change Next Time / Final Thoughts

Well the opening of the jug was small, which made it easy to seal, but tough to get the cranberries in and out, so take that into consideration.
My mashing device wasn't the best, but not bad considering I couldn't think of anything else, and MacGyver was playing in the background, so I thought I'd just go for it.
Syphoning. I'm used to siphoning 23 Litres of wine around, so it's easy to hold the hose at the right depth, but since this jug was small I found it hard to get it just right, maybe a smaller diameter hose would have been easier. But I'm not complaining.

I challenge you to make your own, and make some mistakes on the way, it's the only way you can get better! Try it with lemons, Earl Grey tea, oranges. Really the combinations are endless. Try it with Gin also for a different twist. Let me know what yours turns out like!

Have fun!


Time duration: 1 month.

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    65 Discussions

    I've made this as well. I used an old sauerkraut jar because of the large opening. I found that it can be stored up to about a year with no ill effects, the flavour does tend to mellow. After that it begins to turn brown. (it was on the back of the shelf! :( ) I understand the comments about sterilizing everything, but I found that a good scrubbing in hot water with soap sufficient. Remember, cranberries have a high acid content (a preservative), your adding alcohol (another preservative) and sugar (another, thought not as effective, preservative!)

    I've used the leftover berries to make cranberry bread. I don't squeeze the berries as hard. The vodka cooks out of the berries.

    I've done elixirs like this alot, its cheap and I like the satisfaction of know i made it. done pineapple, orange, lemon, lime, strawberry (favorite), pear, vanilla, Cinnamon (last two were not good), mango, blackberry, blueberry, and cilantro (which was terrible). Generally I dont sweeten till the end cause some flavors are much more naturally sweet. and youre right, you can use bottom shelf stuff with great success, the fruit soaks up alot of the junk that hasn't been charcoal filtered out, but it does turn out a lil better if you use middle quality stuff. I suggest Sobieski, Svedka, or Boru. you can get a handle of Boru at total wine stores for like 13 bucks. best deal around. Other then that i like that you clarified the liquid, personally i jsut use cheese cloth, and don't take anything else out, its a nice bonus for me. for your carboy replacement, jsut go to a thrift store and get an old mason jar (well a big one) or an old glass flour jar with the rubber sealing lid. works perfect. But great job :)

    When I make cranberry sauce they split open when cooked, so that might work. You could nuke 'em in the microwave if you didn't want to add the liquid you'd need to if you heated them on the stovetop. Or put some in a large ziplock bag and go over it with a rolling pin. Or make your kids do it. Isn't that what they're for?

    1 reply

    My thought too. Since you add a simple syrup boil the cranberry's in it.

    I was recently given a vodka cookbook, and they had recipes with cinnamon apple. Being more adventurous, I wanted to try Mango and Peach. For the cinnamon apple, they had put the apple with a cup of sugar and let it sit for a couple days before adding the vodka, which was the process that I followed for the mango and peach. However, I'm really worried about the sterilization of the jars I used. What I had done was washed the jars then set them upright in a pot of boiling water. The water in the pot only came about an inch to three inches up to the jar and the jars were filled with water. I don't know how hot the jars were when they were taken out, but I'm guessing around boiling point. However, the water in the jars didn't look like it was boiling. I had then mixed my peaches/mangoes (when the jars cooled) with a cup of sugar and they are currently sitting in a dark, dry place, sealed, for about 4-5 days now. I'm gonna add the vodka soon. Are there any sterilization concerns I should note? Any input is appreciated..thanks!

    1 reply

    Hey wushuair, concerning sterilization:

    Your comments:
    "What I had done was washed the jars then set them upright in a pot of boiling water. "
    and
    "the water in the jars didn't look like it was boiling "
    concern me. I wouldn't trust it.
    I understand why you chose this method, however it's just not practical for most types of bottling. Hot (boiling) water should work, but how awkward is it to handle, are you sure you got every surface, can your boiling pot accommodate different types and shapes of bottles? All very important questions when dealing with sterilization.

    You could have some very potential problems regarding sterilization, but maybe not. Using distilled spirits like this has some advantages, namely the high alcohol content which would aid in fending off bacteria. However this is almost a moot point considering the high sugar content used in many steeped drinks which are a food source for wild bacteria to feed on.

    The solution for this is to buy some sanitizer from your local brew shop. It'll be a pink powder sold at a reasonable price. You won't need much, just follow the instructions, usually a small scoop added to 5L of cold water will work. An alternative to this method would be to use bleach. yes, bleach.
    With the bleach method you will need to be more fussy about rinsing and cleaning but it will work. Mix a solution of 70/30 bleach to water and bathe your bottles in the solution, then rinse, and rinse again until your bottles aren't slippery any more. This method is less ideal due to the nature of bleach being pretty terrible stuff if consumed, but the result is the same. I've also seen an iodine sanitizer, but wouldn't recommend it as the pink sanitizer is easier to handle and less harmful, and the bleach is more readily available. Personal preference is everything, they all work.

    I hope I answered your questions and this helps, chances are your brew will be fine, after all you washed and (attempted) to sanitize, and unless you are brewing a beer or wine which requires yeast to ferment you should be safe.
    When your brew is finished don't forget to post some pictures here and the recipe you used, that would be awesome!

    AA : When I was little (really little, like 4 or 5) my aunt would buy me and all my cousins tiny bottles of wine for Christmas. We all got looped and no one cared. We all had a glass of wine at holiday dinners, and know what? None of us are addicted to alcohol today. In Europe kids are allowed wine at meals with their parents. The USA is too tied up with the Puritan ethic.

    1 reply

    Actually, that's not true for all of Europe. Especially here in scandinavia we have a very strict alcohol-legislation. Those countries that have a more open approach have increased alcoholism, a higher mortality rate and more violent crimes. Here in Sweden this was part of the reforms in the 50's when we kept the monopoly for alcohol after the war since it had a positive impact on citizens health. Previously the average man was not expected to live beyond 35 years. The suffering of mothers and children from abusive, alcoholic fathers was a great problem causing great costs all over society. One great reason why it remains so restricted today is that in the past factory-workers were kept down by a constant supply of booze because alcoholics will take worse jobs for less money and doesn't form unions and fight for their rights. I certainly think alcohol has a place in todays society but here in Sweden, after massive campaigns and much hard work for over fifty years 1 in every ten car is driven by someone with to much alcohol in their blood and that is the main cause of accidents.

    wow, cool idea, I'm suer ill give this a try as soon as i can get some vodka thats not stolen from my parents liquor cabinet... but why go through all the trouble sterilizing everything? Thats what alcohol does. i can understand washing the cranberries (although im sure theyre washed after the harvest) but sterilizing the jug? Whats the point?

    4 replies

    You know, that's not a very good suggestion at all. Minors should be kept from accessing larger quantities of alcohol since it's an increased riskfactor for developing alcoholism later in life, as a pharmacist I'm surprised you would suggest it. As for a minor to start approaching random homeless people on the street .. that is potentially very dangerous and quite frankly it's disrespectful to take advantage of people down on their luck.

    Sterilization is a leftover habit from wine making. You're probably right about the high alcolhol content 'killing' any bacteria, but experience tells me you're asking for trouble if you introduce a potential of rotting fruit to sugar, and a warm temperature. I'd rather not risk it, besides it's a pretty short additional step int eh whole process. Good observation though, I was wondering if anyone would call me on that. If you have success doing this without sterilizing your equipment you can save yourself a few bucks on the pink stuff, but it's handy to have anyways. Let me know how yours turns out, I might just omit this on my next batch!

    I was curious about that too. There's an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown uses cracked black peppercorns to infuse a bottle of vodka over the period of a week. Which I've now done! It smells wonderful, but I haven't had the right situation to try it out yet. One day, the bloody marys will be outstanding. I think the cloudiness of it adds to the appeal. But I didn't sterilize because the instructions didn't say to, and I'm hoping future endeavors in other flavors don't require it. My friend wants to infuse vodka with dried mango slices, which are already the consistency of gummy bears. He's just going to run them through the food processor, and probably won't even filter them out when it's ready. I think I'd drink that straight.

    hi. I'm not very expert in liquors, wines etc, but i guess i know some. Gelatine and that stuff you add to make the drink clearer probably works, but i expect only low-class drinks to use it. Clarity can be reached trough a complete process in the production of ethanol in the drink. For example when you produce wine, it looks rather dull before the process is completed; then it becomes clear. In other words, if you do things properly, you shouldn't even need any gelatine. And IMHO, i don't think adding syrup is needed in your recipe; glucose is added to drinks in order to be transformed in ethanol by yeast. But since you use sanitizer in every passage, I doubt there is any in the mix. That's probably why your drink is cloudy and you need to add gelatine.

    5 replies

    Man, you don't know jack. Did you ever see a sommelier decant a a very old, very expensive bottle of wine? That's so the sediment doesn't get poured into your glass. Then again, it must be cheap and poorly made if it's got stuff floating around in it.

    Thanks for the comment, here's the real deal.

    Gelatin
    Gelatin finings are not restricted to low-class drinks, in fact the caliber of your product has nothing to do with using gelatin. It's all to do with the particle count of whatever ingredients you are using. So if you are using raw grapes or berries to make your mixture then you're going to have plenty of particles floating around (which isn't gross, in fact it's natural!).

    Actually real clarity is reached in one of two ways, and in many cases both:
    1) filtering. I mention it somewhere else in this Instructable, but filtering will increase the clarity of your product. The best method of filtering is a pressurized method which forces the liquid through a filter (Commercial wines use this method, the wine is pumped through a sandwich of filters and comes out really clear on the other side.)

    2) Racking. This method is also explained in the Instructable. Racking is a fancy way of siphoning the liquid from one container to another without disturbing the sediment settled on the bottom. The partner of racking is time, as over time your liquid will settle more.

    I'll admit that gelatin finings are not mandatory for this. If I had a better filter system I would use it. However this method (like racking) is passive and worked perfectly for such a small batch.

    Syrup
    "i don't think adding syrup is needed in your recipe; glucose is added to drinks in order to be transformed in ethanol by yeast. But since you use sanitizer in every passage, I doubt there is any in the mix. That's probably why your drink is cloudy and you need to add gelatine."
    I think you are getting different things confused here. The syrup used was for sweetener, if this step was omitted then the mixture would be very bitter (cranberries are by nature a very bitter fruit). The alcohol content was not increased by the addition of syrup. The only way that this would happen is if I had put yeast in the mix (which I did not and is not mentioned in the article). Also yeast only works up to around 14% ABV, then the mix becomes too potent and kills the yeast, to achieve higher alcohol by volume you will need to distill, but that is a different Instructable altogether, so I chose to use just straight vodka instead, hence the title "cranberry infused vodka", not "distilled cranberry mash".

    Thanks for the comments markvid! These are some very fine points which may have been lost on the kids sitting in the back row. Have you made some infused drinks of your own? I'd love to see them, post some pics!
    I've got a few more recipes I'd like to try out. In America they have Everclear which is pretty much ideal for using in recipes like this, however our Canadian dollar is less than attractive for me to make a trip over there right now.

    I must haven't been very careful in reading some pieces of your instructable, sorry. I confused with some other instructable, where they used syrup to make an alcoholic drink, maybe was something about how to make limoncello. So basically what you did was to flavour your vodka, right? Well it's cool then. I haven't made any drink yet, maybe i will but i think i'm more interested in the distillation process, also because it's something we studied at universtity. Is everclear just pure alcohol (about 95%)? In this case it can be found also elsewhere, maybe by another brand. In using it you should be careful though, and calculate the right alcohol percent you want for your drink, or you could have some unpleasant surprise... ;-) Thanks for the answer, marco

    The closest stuff I've found in Canada is 50% (100 proof) which is pretty close, however not the same as [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everclear_(alcohol) everclear], which is potent at 75.5% (151 proof), colourless, and tasteless.

    Those crafty Americans don't let us have any fun :(