Liquors for the holidays

December 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I took some time this weekend to make some gifts for the holidays (excuse me for saying “holidays.”  I’m Jewish and Dave’s not, so we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, and if you’re a person who is offended when you hear “Happy Holidays,” then please stop reading now, because when we say “holidays” we really do mean Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and whatever you choose to celebrate in December…because “the holidays” are more than just Christmas.).

We love this time of year for so many reasons.  We love the chilly air (well…sort of chilly; we are in the South, after all), the beautiful lights decorating the homes in our community, and the cheerful demeanor of our friends.  It’s a time for reflection, and for enjoying the season (whatever you believe).  On Hanukkah, I enjoy giving a gift a night to my friends and family.  Dave stresses in December; he worries that he doesn’t know what to give, but he doesn’t realize that it really doesn’t matter…friendship and family are most important, and even if he gifted me with a hug or backrub, I’d still feel pretty fortunate.

Yesterday, I gathered a dozen mandarins, a couple of packs of cranberries, sugar, and a few gallons of vodka (the workers at our liquor store probably think I’m an alcoholic because of the enormous qualtities of alcohol I purchased there yesterday).

I made two kinds of liquor…both so beautiful to look at.  The Cranberry-Mandarin liquor is very sparkly and festive, and the MandarinCello is bright and delightful.  I can’t wait to give them to our friends.  To make them, I combined several recipes I found on magazines and online.  I think you really need to make them both on the same day, because they are dependent upon each other.  The MandarinCello uses the peels of the oranges, while the Cranberry-Mandarin Liquor uses just their juice.  So, I suggest that you save time and ingredients by making both recipes at the same time.  It’s a teeny-tiny hassle to make two tubs of liquor at the same time, but in the end…so much easier.  And, the good news is that you end up with about 6 gifts for your friends…plus some for you, too.

Here are the recipes:

Cranberry-Mandarin Liquor

2 (12-ounce) packages fresh cranberries

4 cups sugar

2 cups water

Juice of 12 mandarin oranges

6 cups vodka



Combine cranberries, sugar, water, and mandarin juice in a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat; cook 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool completely.  Stir in vodka.  Pour into a large container.

Let stand 3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking every other day.  Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl, and discard solids. Carefully pour liqueur into clean bottles or jars; secure with lids.

MandarinCello liquor

12 mandarin oranges

2 (750-milliliter) bottles vodka

4 cups sugar

5 cups water


Peel mandarin oranges using vegetable peeler or knife (I used a vegetable grater).  Place peel in a large 3-qt. jar; pour vodka over strips. Cover and let stand at room temperature 7 days.  Shake or stir every day.

Bring the 4 cups sugar and 5 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; let stand 30 minutes. Pour syrup into vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature 24 hours.

Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer (or cheesecloth) into another pitcher, discarding orange rind strips. Pour into sealable bottles or Mason jars. Seal and chill 4 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator up to 1 month.


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