top of page
  • Nikki Cagle

Drunken Cranberries Recipe: The Best Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Drunken Cranberries Promo image

Any time I can lace a dish with alcohol — especially for the holidays — well, sign me right on up. I never in my life liked cranberry sauce — there's something about eating a can-shaped jello mold that just had me like, nahhh, I'm good. That is, until I met this recipe about 10 years ago {my god, I'm old} at a work function {forever in debt to that co-worker}. I have tweaked this recipe so many times over the years, but I have finally found the sweet spot. Sure, you could make it kid-friendly, but why not just scoop a bit out before adding the goods {read: Alcohol}, and have the best of both worlds {a buzz for you — and not for the kids}?

Three main things about this dish before you officially add it to your Thanksgiving line-up {which you'll want to, trust me}:

  1. The recipe calls for frozen cranberry juice concentrate — and I know what you're thinking — no problem, I'll just stroll my booty on over to the frozen fruit aisle and pick up a couple cans. Wrong, so wrong. Frozen cran concentrate is becoming extinct, ya'll. It's a tragedy, really. I haven't ventured into finding a substitute for this yet {due to pure laziness}, so I go on a wild goose chase every year to find the frozen goods. And by "me," I mean I send out an SOS to my entire family and whoever finds it first buys every can on the shelf {because it's typically good for two Thanksgiving cycles}. As far as I can tell from Welch's website, they carry it mostly at Walmart and Safeway — though the hubs also found it as Weis this year. Be a nerd: Check the Welch's or Ocean Spray website trackers before going on a hunt, giving up, and just downing the bottle of GM.

  2. Double up. Hell, maybe even triple up? Quadrupling is not frowned upon, either. This bad boy goes fast, and you'll definitely want leftovers. If you find yourself with too many leftovers — even better. Let me tell you why: It serves more purposes than just a turkey companion. Picture me this {or taste me this}: Drunken cranberries over a baked brie {dead}; drunken cranberry meatballs {heaven}; or drunken cranberries poured into ice cube trays, frozen, and then plopped into champagne at Christmas {YOU'RE WELCOME}. Like I said, the more, the merrier. I almost always double this. Freezes well!

  3. If you want to keep this completely kid-friendly, just forego the Grand Marnier. It's easy to do because it's the last ingredient added. Or, add it and simmer it out longer so it cooks out the alcohol but keeps the tangy orange flavor. I don't exactly support this option or think that we'll ever be besties, but hey, to each their own.

Drunken Cranberries

Serves: 8-10

Total time: 20 minutes


  • 2 cans frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate

  • 2/3 cups sugar

  • 5 Tbsp. orange marmalade

  • 1 orange, freshly squeezed

  • 4 Tbsp. grated orange peel {I grate 1 orange and call it a damn day}

  • 1/2 Tsp. ground allspice

  • 2 12-oz packages of fresh cranberries {or frozen - but I prefer the pop of fresh}

  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier


  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the frozen cranberry juice concentrate and sugar — mix well. Cook down, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves — about 3 minutes.

  2. Stir in the orange marmalade, freshly squeezed orange, orange peel, and allspice until well-combined. Take a moment, hang your face over the steaming pot {carefully — don't call me if you burn yourself, doofus}, and breathe in the wafting smells. If you're not in the holiday spirit after this, I can't help you, Scrooge.

  3. Add in the fresh cranberries and stir occasionally while the cranberries pop and cook down — about 10-12 minutes.

  4. Turn heat to low and add Grand Marnier — mix well and let cook for another minute {or longer, if you must cook the alcohol out}.

  5. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes — then transfer to a glass bowl {warning: Will stain plastic!}. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Tip: Make the night before serving. These are best the next day {or even two days later} once the flavors have set in and the cranberries have thickened. Bonus that you get one dish out of the way the night before the chaos of a holiday!

To thaw: If you took my advice and made a quintuplet-batch to freeze, you'll just want to pull the container out of the freezer and let thaw a bit on it's own for a couple of hours {I let mine thaw in the sink}. If I'm in a crunch I'll throw it in a saucepan and help it cook down faster, and then put it back in the fridge to firm up and cool down {again}.

Happy holidays!! {Or, happy July, happy Wednesday, happy girls-night-in — whatever, I'm not judging. These are good anytime — and I for sure crave them throughout the year.}


bottom of page