Stop phoning in your Thanksgiving drinks selection: Spike the day with new cranberry liqueur
It happens every year. My wife and I agree to host Thanksgiving and then, inevitably, we fail to plan ahead. A few weeks before the holiday, we’re abruptly confronted by a barrage of text messages: “What can I bring?” “What would you like us to make?” “What do you need?”
As is my wont, I tend to ignore each and every text message. But the texts drive my wife into action. She begins mapping out our menu and doling out dishes to our family to cook or bring.
Meanwhile, my browser tabs start to fill up with cocktail ideas. But after an hour or so of noodling around online, inevitably, I realize that after a full day of cooking I’m not going to want to start fiddling around with cocktails. And so I end up keeping the drinks simple; I plop a half dozen or so bottles of spirits (a few bottles of whiskey, a vodka, a gin, a dry and a sweet vermouth, and maybe something weird) on the counter, along with a mixer or two, and load the fridge with a Flanders red ale and a big imperial stout for dessert.
It’s fine. I don’t think anyone thinks twice about it. But, every night, at the end of the night as I take the bottles back down to my basement, I tend to think that next year I’ll do things differently. And, believe me, this year I will.
That’s because this year I’ll have a bottle of Koval’s new Cranberry Gin Liqueur, some sparkling wine (probably prosecco) and soda water on hand to make a cranberry gin spritz. It’s incredibly simple, yet festive, and delicious. And the key is the Cranberry Gin Liqueur, a spirit that’s more in line with European apertivos such as Campari and Aperol than it is with Koval’s other offerings. And that’s the idea.
“We wanted to bring an element of that apertif culture here,” says Sonat Birnecker Hart, Koval’s president. But she and husband, Robert Birnecker, who is Koval’s CEO and master distiller, wanted to create a liqueur that was “very much of the Midwest.” That led them to think of cranberries because Wisconsin produces more than half of the world's supply of the tart, crimson berries. Using Koval’s gin as a base, they added organic Wisconsin- and Michigan-grown cranberries and sugar. It took several months before they found the right balance between tart and sweet.
Eventually, they nailed it. It’s a gorgeous crimson spirit that’s complex, thanks to the gin base, tart and sweet. There are a number of ways to use it — think a twist on a cosmo (three parts Cranberry Gin Liqueur to one part Cointreau, with lime juice to taste) or a fizz (1 ounce Cranberry Gin, ¾ ounce gin, ½ ounce simple syrup, ¼ ounce fresh lemon juice, egg white and 1 ½ ounces soda water). But to ensure that this year is different, I’m going to keep it simple with a spritz.
Zak Stambor is a freelance writer.
Cranberry gin spritz
Prep: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail
A spritz is incredibly easy to make. It follows a basic 3-2-1 formula.
3 ounces prosecco, or other sparkling wine
2 ounces Koval Cranberry Gin Liqueur
1 ounce soda water
Pour ingredients into an ice-filled rocks or wine glass; stir. Garnish with a twist of lemon.