14 Best Liquors To Mix With Cranberry Juice

Native to North America and growing in red bogs that look like something out of a fairy tale; cranberries are a quintessential part of the American ideal of Christmas. Their luscious rouge colors the winter wonderlands of our culinary imaginations, and their tartness is the perfect accent to all sugar-dusted sweet treats. It's only natural that we should want to incorporate their tangy sourness into our holiday libations as well.

Fun fact: it's a common misconception that you can stop believing that cranberries grow in water. However, the berries only float in water for a three-day harvesting process that begins when farmers flood cranberry bogs to make collecting them more manageable. These iconic berries work so well as a cocktail garnish, whether bobbing up and down in a fizzy champagne cocktail or as part of an inviting punch bowl. The competing sweet and tart elements of cranberry juice make it uniquely situated to suit a variety of liquors and spirits in mixology.

Don't feel hemmed in by Christmas traditions – this year, set yourself free to experiment with an alcoholic beverage you don't have as much experience with. Cranberry's strong and balanced flavor effortlessly complements floral and citrus notes. It's a classic cocktail mixer for a reason, but instead of letting that limit your imagination, take the opportunity to play around with a forgiving ingredient. Read on to get inspired by cranberry concoctions you might not have already had at 1,000 holiday parties.

1. Classic vodka

Perhaps the first liquor people think of as a complement to cranberry is vodka. Its subtle sting hides easily behind cranberry's punchy fruit flavor for those who prefer not to taste their booze. Though you can't go wrong with this Cape Cod pairing, the easiest way to upgrade your next vodka cranberry is to use a citrus-infused vodka like lemon or lime. Cherry vodka also pairs well with cranberry juice and gives the cocktail a dark, moodier color appropriate for an autumnal or winter gathering. Vanilla vodka creates a dessert-like delight. Use equal parts flavored vodka and unflavored if you want a subtler effect.

For a lighter take on the vodka-cranberry profile, try adding grapefruit juice for a fruity, refreshing Sea Breeze. You can thank Ocean Spray for the rise of the Sea Breeze cocktail, which was traditionally made with gin and grenadine. The current version of the drink became popular in the 1960s after Ocean Spray published its recipe to drive cranberry juice sales up following an herbicide scandal. The strategy was a great success. The cocktail's signature pink hue is a fun addition to any fizzy occasion. Add pineapple juice instead of grapefruit for a Bay Breeze for a different tropical take.

2. Orange Vodka

Cranberries and oranges are a natural fit, paired in many a cocktail for their failsafe chemistry. An orange's sweetness provides a lovely base for cranberry's sting, and if you're looking for a quick complement to cranberry juice, adding orange vodka will add excitement to the drink in a pinch. The combo is perfect if you'd like to reduce some of the labor at your holiday party without sacrificing the little details and delights of hosting.

See our cranberry orange crush cocktail recipe for a more elevated take on this flavor profile, which balances the yearning for a tropical escape with the warmth and familiarity of a Yuletide cocktail. Essential to the success of the subtle flavors in this drink is the orange twist, which highlights the best notes of the vodka and orange liqueur that give the cocktail its sweet edge. This drink tastes like sunshine when combined with cranberry juice and a dash of soda.

3. Tequila

Though it's often associated with tropical flavors and summertime vibes, true tequila lovers will enjoy its crisp punchiness in any atmosphere. The appeal of this classic spirit lies in its unmistakably sharp flavor. Unlike weaker profiles, tequila's personality won't wilt in the face of the assertive cranberry. These two flavors can dance with each other, showcasing — not diminishing — the other's sparkle.

For a classier take on tequila and cranberry, try making a Cosmo with tequila for a bold twist on the classic cocktail. The vodka swap kicks this flirty cocktail up a notch, augmenting the citrus flavors of the Cointreau and lime juice, blending deliciously with the sour richness of the cranberry. Margarita lovers might notice that a tequila cosmopolitan could essentially be called a cranberry marg. Depending on the social occasion, serve your peppery tequila-infused Cosmo in a cocktail glass garnished with a twist of orange to connote stylishness or in a margarita glass with lime and ice for a festive party feel.

4. Mezcal

Mezcal is having a moment. Along with its fellow agave product, tequila, it has continued to rise in popularity in the U.S. despite not being a regular ingredient in many classic American cocktails. Luckily for mezcal lovers, this smoky spirit is versatile and can be inserted into many flavorful creations. Its earthy richness is a beautiful substitute for gin in a Negroni. Campari and sweet vermouth layer well over mezcal's distinct taste for a modern and stiff sipper.

To add an additional wow factor to a mezcal drink, use cranberries to give your Negroni a tart twist. Cranberry works to balance the citrus of the classic orange peel in a negroni with the smoky depth of the mezcal and reveals the sweetness and bitterness of the cocktail. Explore this recipe that pairs mezcal with bourbon, cranberry syrup, and orange bitters for a lighter, sunnier take on a mezcal cranberry creation.

5. Gin

If you tend to see vodka as a missed opportunity for gin, you'll be pleased to find that many cranberry cocktail recipes work equally as well with the more complex, floral flavor profile of gin. You can swap the vodka in a Cape Cod for gin for a quick, easy cocktail, but the complexity of gin and cranberry invites experimentation. Add a splash of ginger soda for an extra sparkly bite.

For a flashier gin and cranberry drink, try a twist on the Purple Haze. Made with many variations of liquors, purple haze cocktails are a versatile way to enjoy a colorful drink. The psychedelic rock-inspired purple concoction has been a hit since Peter Janson first made it at the World Cocktail Championships. Its chief requirement is that it be an appetizing purple color, but to achieve the effect, mixologists have a lot of flexibility. While most sources say vodka was the original liquor used in the recipe, gin, cranberry juice, and blue Curaçao can also combine into a vibrant purple hue. Garnish with a lemon slice and, if you're so inclined, purple sugar.

6. Rhubarb gin

Like cranberry, rhubarb is a robust and nostalgic flavor that can be a welcome surprise in a cocktail. The vegetable's plummy punch tastes similar to cranberry's profile but registers in a slightly different key. Its summery tartness makes a drink feel more refreshing and can take the cranberry — which is often associated with the chilly holiday season — through to the warmer months. For a fruity, cranberry-forward cocktail, mix rhubarb gin with ginger ale and cranberry juice.

This classic Christmas cocktail recipe combines cranberry juice, rhubarb gin, and lemonade, made festive with a lovely garnish of fresh cranberries on a rim of sugar as if they had fallen on snow. If you'd like to explore more complex flavors on this spectrum, Beefeater distills a rhubarb and cranberry gin, which can be used in spritzes and Cape Cod variations. Rhubarb offers a distinct, standout taste that can remind garden party guests of eagerly scarfing down their grandmother's cobbler.

7. Coconut rum

While many cranberry-centric cocktails are designed and styled for holiday gatherings, pairing cranberry juice with the scintillating tropical intrigue of coconut rum is a sexy way to indulge in the berry's tartness. Despite its spring break reputation, this is why you should be drinking coconut rum as a comforting beverage during the long winter months. Pairing cranberry and coconut rum in a holiday punch bowl is one sure way to get your guests to feel warmer and looser.

The main appeal of multi-tasking mixtures such as Malibu's Original Caribbean Rum — which is blended with coconut liqueur — is that they allow you to skip some steps. If you'd like to emphasize the fruitiness of cranberry juice by pairing it with this tiki bar mainstay, take a look at Malibu's modified recipe for a Bay Breeze. Adding coconut to the already beach-ready drink adds an extra dash of escapism. Enjoy with friends or as a solo vacation after dinner on a long winter's night.

8. Spiced rum

Sugarcane sweetness is a perfect neutralizer to cranberry's tartness, and spiced rum is a particularly good cocktail partner for the cranberry due to its subtle bouquet of baking spices. Vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, often nestled against cranberries in winter baked goods, are a warm and interesting inclusion in a cranberry juice-heavy mix.

Like with other types of rum, the spiced variety paired with cranberry juice is a foolproof base for crowd-pleasing punches. The festively-named Gator Bite Rum Punch is a kitschy throwback garnished with maraschino cherries and oranges, full of complex flavors between spiced rum, silver rim, and rum liquor, augmented with a blend of cranberry, orange and pineapple juices. For a more cosmopolitan spiced rum creation, Britain's wintry Christmas Pimm's cup cocktail combines spiced rum, gin-infused liqueur, cranberry juice, and ginger beer. Garnishing with red currants, a cinnamon stick, and rosemary makes this wintertime classic look as if it materialized from a storybook.

9. Orange Liquor/Cointreau

Created by a family of candy makers and dubbed the original triple sec, Cointreau has become an indispensable addition to many cocktails since its debut in the nineteenth century. Édouard Cointreau honed in on the essence of orange to find a competitor to a popular cherry liqueur of the time. The liqueur was well-received at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, but Cointreau tweaked the recipe for a more global appeal. He tamped down the sweetness and added a new mix of sweet and bitter orange peels.

It is a misconception that Cointreau adds sweetness to cocktails like a margarita. The spirit is essentially dry and much more aromatic than it is sweet, which makes it a lovely companion of cranberry in any classic cocktail. If you're tired of the same old standard Cosmo, think outside the box as you unwind from the holidays this year, and try this cranberry sauce frozen Cosmo, which utilizes your leftovers and gloriously showcases the citrus bouquet of Cointreau.

10. Champagne

Popping open a bottle (or two) of champagne is one of the most elegant and festive ways to drink with family and friends. Combining the fizzy favorite with a holiday mainstay like cranberry juice makes for an instant hit that everyone will be glad to share. The 1920s throwback French 75 with a cranberry twist makes for a colorful and chic toast. A basic French 75 cocktail recipe is refreshing and flexible. While its purest version is a simple combination of gin, lemon, simple syrup, and a couple of ounces of champagne, adding a dash of cranberry for a blushing pink color and extra tangy punch and garnishing with rosemary will elevate your French 75 for the holidays.

Of course, many types of sparkling wines combine well with cranberry, and you can get bang for your buck by combining a cheaper prosecco into a delicious Christmas punch. Our best Christmas punch recipe — which is easy to whip up just before your guests arrive — calls for cranberry juice, clementine or orange juice, spiced rum, ginger ale, and prosecco of your choice. Adding orange slices and frozen cranberries keeps the punch cool, flavorful, and enticing throughout the whole party.

11. Cognac

If you've ever prepared traditional cranberry sauce for a holiday dinner, it might have occurred to you to mix up some cocktails with cranberry and cognac. This French brandy is often used in sauce recipes to add depth to cranberries' tartness, and you can replicate the effect in a cocktail glass. Cognac's woody notes of oak and vanilla pair well with the holiday spices and flavors of a cranberry-based drink.

Cognac works excellently as the brandy ingredient in a smooth Old Fashioned recipe. The drink is traditionally made from whiskey, bourbon, or brandy with muddled sugar, bitters, and water. Old Fashioneds are built to be riffed on, and adding a delicious dash of cranberry to this recipe works particularly well with cognac. Supplementing fresh cranberries and oranges to the cocktail's muddling mix will give it a fresh punch and a little extra sourness and sweetness that should ring perfectly for the holidays.

12. Ouzo

With its signature licorice taste, ouzo can be divisive. If you've tried it before, you might be wondering what makes ouzo unique. The Greek spirit, traditionally made with skins and stems of wine grapes and flavored with anise, has a heady, complex flavor palette owing to the spice and herb blends lovingly perfected by Greek distillers. Common herbs added are fennel, cloves, and cinnamon, but the blends vary greatly. Ouzo is meant to be savored slowly, with appreciation for the distinct flavors of its prized ingredients. A cocktail made with ouzo is a standout course in itself, best enjoyed before the start of a large meal. When mixed with comforting holiday flavors, it's a perfect way to kick off a winter dinner party.

Ouzo is traditionally consumed in a reverent ceremony, adding only water to the spirit, and even ice is a controversial addition. However, if you'd like to experience new dimensions of ouzo, adding a tart dash of cranberry juice for an ouzo spritz is an accessible way to enjoy the striking natural flavors of this aperitif. In this recipe, cranberry juice, lemon juice, and tonic combine in a base that won't overpower ouzo's natural character.

13. Sake

While sake is delicious to enjoy on its own, the rice-based alcohol can be used as an ingredient in unique cocktails. The appeal is similar to that of popular wine cocktails, providing an easy sipping experience with a robust, boozy buzz. A common counterpart to sake in these cocktails is cranberry juice. The cranberry's tartness plays nicely with sake of the sweeter variety. 

For a more refined sake cocktail, shake sake, triple sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice together for what Absolut dubs a Zentini. This pink drink will feel familiar, with an exotic mouthfeel. Difford's Guide takes sake in a similar direction with their Sake'Politan, made with sake, triple sec, cranberry juice, lime juice, and the addition of orange bitters. Sake is gluten-free and there is some evidence that the unique bacteria in it can help with gut health, making it an excellent base for a night of social drinking.

14. Boukha

Famously well-paired with strong fruit flavors, this Tunisian fig liqueur is the perfect candidate for a cranberry-forward cocktail. Boukha is similar to a French eau de vie ("water of life"), made by crushing and fermenting fruit and then distilling the remaining liquid mash. The goal of the process is to retain much of the flavor of the main ingredient. With figs in the Tunisian region where Boukha is produced having such a short life before over-ripening, creating Boukha was a way to transport the deliciousness of the fig far and wide, as well as store it for leaner times.

Bouka is a warm spirit with complex notes of raisin and spice. Like many spirits that pair well with cranberry, combining Boukha with lemon juice and grenadine is a classic go-to presentation. Infuse it with more cranberry goodness by swapping the grenadine for cranberry simple syrup and adding a splash of cranberry juice. This liquor often pairs well with exotic garnishes from the same region, like cardamom pods.