This Mulled Cranberry Madras Cocktail is a wintery twist on a classic vodka cranberry orange cocktail. Tart cranberry juice is simmered with warming spices then mixed with vodka and topped with fresh-squeezed orange juice. It’s juicy, sweet, tart, spicy, and refreshing and sure to be a hit at holiday gatherings.
Cranberries… they are more than just a side sauce for turkey dinners! In fact, they are the highlight of many delicious Christmas recipes including appetizers like gooey Brie cheese and pecans in golden baked puff pastry. Christmas dinner is not the same without desserts like Cranberry Pomegranate Trifle golden baked Cranberry Bars.
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Mulled Cranberry Madras Cocktail
This easy Christmas cocktail recipe contains the usual ingredients of a standard Madras Cocktail all dressed up for the holidays! The unmistakable aroma of mulling spices perfumes the air as they simmer away in the fresh cranberry juice, creating a warm and cozy vibe throughout your home.
One sip of this festive vodka drink will lead to another and before long, you’ll find you are ready for another. However, unlike many cocktails, the low juice to vodka ratio keeps things bright and cheerful, without the feeling you get from over imbibing.
The key component in this recipe is the mulled cranberry juice. If you haven’t tried mulled cranberry juice, it’s very similar to mulled apple cider but is less sweet, more tart in flavour. It is heavenly in this cocktail but also exquisite as an alcohol free cider, served warm or cold.
What is a Madras Cocktail?
This Mulled Cranberry Madras drink is my holiday variation on the classic Madras Cocktail recipe. The most conventional ingredients in the classic highball recipe consist of vodka as the main spirit mixed with cranberry juice and orange juice.
Both cocktail recipes (my holiday variation and the classic Madras cocktail) are refreshing ‘low alcohol’ vodka cocktails with a low vodka-to-juice ratio of 1/4. These juicy drinks are served in a tall highball glass with a volume of 10 – 12 oz. However, a 12 oz Collins glass will also do the trick.
The Madras Cocktail bears similarity to a multitude of cranberry juice based cocktail recipes including the Cosmopolitan (with triple sec and lime juice), the Cape Codder (vodka and cranberry juice, sometimes with a lime wedge), the Bay Breeze Cocktail (with pineapple juice), and the Woo Woo (with Peach Schnapps).
All of these variations have two components in common: vodka and cranberry juice. It’s highly likely that the development of these assorted highballs coincided with the appearance of the latter on store shelves.
Handy Tools and Equipment for this Recipe
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This fruity vodka highball is quick and easy to mix up with the bulk of the prep time attributed to mulling the cranberry juice. You will need mulling spices (or use a combination of cinnamon sticks, fresh grated nutmeg, and fresh ginger), a saucepan, and a wire mesh strainer for this first step.
Feel free to use a bell jigger, graduated shot glass, or measuring cup to measure the vodka and fruit juices into a highball or Tom Collins glass. A long-handled cocktail mixing spoon gets right to the bottom of a tall glass and ensures even mixing.
Mulled Cranberry Madras Cocktail Ingredients
Folks, this is a simple cocktail that contains only ONE spirit in addition to cranberry juice, orange juice, and mulling spices. You can make dried orange wheels for garnish, or just use fresh cranberries, sprigs of rosemary, or a twisty orange peel in any combination.
- Cranberry Juice
- Brown Sugar
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Ginger Root
- Orange Juice
This recipe calls for pure cranberry juice and additional brown sugar. This allows you to control the amount of sugar and sweetness of the cocktail. However, feel free to use sweetened cranberry juice and omit the brown sugar.
Mulling spices may be any varied combination of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. However, there may also be star anise, peppercorn, ginger root, cardamom, or dried orange peel. Feel free to add any of these to make the mulled cranberry juice.
Freshly grated nutmeg provides the strongest flavor, but powdered nutmeg will work in a pinch. Use cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger root only.
How to Make Mulled Cranberry Madras Cocktails
The heart of this festive cocktail recipe is the mulled cranberry juice. You can buy a package of mulling spices or a combination of cinnamon sticks, fresh grated nutmeg, and fresh ginger. I suggest scaling up to make an entire batch of Madras Cocktails. You may just want drink as a hot cider or offer it as an alcohol free mocktail.
Mulled Cranberry Juice
To make the mulled cranberry juice, pour 8 ounces cranberry juice into a medium saucepan. Add the cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, nutmeg, and ginger to the saucepan. Bring the cranberry mixture to a boil over medium high heat then reduce the temperature to low heat.
Cover and simmer the cranberry mixture on low heat for 20 minutes. Next, remove the mulled cranberry juice from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Finally, strain the mulled cranberry juice through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
Let’s Mix Up Two Madras Cocktails
To make two Mulled Cranberry Madras Cocktails, fill two 10-12 oz highball glasses half-way with ice. Pour 2 oz vodka into each glass, then add 4 oz Mulled Cranberry Juice and stir. Top with 2 oz freshly squeezed orange juice then add more ice to fill the glass.
Finally, garnish with cranberries, a sprig of rosemary, fresh or dried orange wheels. Cheers!
Make It Ahead of Time
You can prep this drink in advance by mulling the cranberry juice then straining and storing it in the fridge in an airtight bottle or container. Squeeze the orange juice and store it in the fridge in a separate airtight container. When ready to serve, mix the drink as instructed.
To Make a Pitcher of 4 Madras Cocktails: For every 2 cups of cranberry juice, use ½ cup brown sugar (do not pack), 6 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, and 4 tablespoons chopped ginger. To this you will add 1 cup of vodka, and one cup fresh orange juice.
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- 8 oz pure cranberry juice
- 3-4 cinnamon sticks
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped ginger (¼ inch pieces)
- 4 oz vodka
- 4 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
- fresh or frozen cranberries to garnish (optional)
- Add cranberry juice, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, nutmeg, and ginger to a medium saucepan. Bring the cranberry mixture to a boil over medium high heat then reduce the temperature to low heat.
- Cover and simmer the cranberry mixture on low heat for 20 minutes then remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Strain cranberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
- Fill two 10-12 oz highball glasses half way with ice. Pour 2 oz vodka into each glass, then add 4 oz Mulled Cranberry Juice and stir. Top with 2 oz freshly squeezed orange juice then add more ice to fill the glass.
- Garnish with cranberries, a sprig of rosemary, fresh or dried orange wheels.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 318Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 16mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 4gSugar: 36gProtein: 1g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.