It's tough to make a drink that can please both those who abstain from and those who imbibe alcohol. Many mocktails are no more than sugary juices with a bit of soda water added. For Cambria's winter glam cocktail party I was tasked with coming up with something a little more interesting — a mocktail that had the edgy notes of a grown-up drink without any of the alcohol. But it had to accommodate a splash of stronger stuff, too, for those who wanted a boozy punch.
My solution? This festive cranberry fizz — which I'm told was a hit. Want to see what's in it?
Building a good mocktail often calls for a little extra work. To get stronger and richer flavors, like those found in a good cocktail, you have to take the time to build several layers.
For this punch I made a strong, tangy syrup of fresh cranberries, ginger, and rosemary, using cranberry juice as the liquid instead of water to keep it concentrated.
For the punch itself I steeped tea for those musky, tannic notes, and added a robust dose of tangy pomegranate syrup. The finishing touch comes from non-alcoholic orange bitters, which are a real boon to those of you who don't drink alcohol. They have all of the complex, herbal flavors of bitters without the booze.
From here the punch can go bright and fizzy, with the addition of tonic water. Don't skip the tonic water for soda water; the bitter note it adds is essential to finishing this punch properly. It's not nearly as good with plain club soda.
And of course, if you have an imbibing crowd, there's plenty of room for gin! The herbal fragrance of a good gin play very nicely with this cranberry fizz. And gin or no, all can enjoy — have a batch, as Cambria did, liquor-free for those who want none, and boozed up for those who do.
Festive Cranberry Fizz
Makes about 18 servings
For the Cranberry Rosemary Syrup:
2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (12-ounce bag)
2 ounces fresh ginger, skin on and sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups cranberry juice cocktail, no sugar added
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
For the Cranberry Punch Mix:
1/4 ounce black tea leaves (decaffeinated if desired)
4 cups boiling water
3 cups Cranberry Rosemary Syrup
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses, without any added sweeteners
1/4 cup non-alcoholic orange bitters, such as Fee Brothers
4 to 7 cups tonic water
2 cups gin, optional
To make the Cranberry Rosemary Syrup: Blitz the cranberries and ginger in a food processor until roughly chopped, then mix with the sugar and cranberry juice cocktail in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add the rosemary. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool, ideally overnight in the refrigerator. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. You should have about 3 cups of thin syrup. Syrup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen.
To prepare Cranberry Punch Mix: Place the tea leaves in a large heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and steep for 3 minutes. Strain out the leaves, and whisk in the Cranberry Rosemary Syrup, pomegranate molasses, and orange bitters.
Refrigerate the punch mix for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Non-Alcoholic Cranberry Fizz
To serve a non-alcoholic drink, stir the punch mix together with 6 to 7 cups tonic water. Serve over ice. Makes about 18 6-ounce servings.
Gin Cranberry Fizz
To serve an alcoholic drink, stir the punch mix together with 2 cups gin and 4 to 5 cups tonic water. Serve over ice. Makes about 18 6-ounce servings.
(Image credits: Kristin Teig; Kristin Teig; Kristin Teig)