Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail

Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail

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Alex and I drink a lot of bourbon cocktails, ever since we went on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for an anniversary trip almost 4 years ago. So we drink a lot of Old-Fashioneds, and occasionally a Manhattan, or a bourbon-peach cocktail that we drink often in the summer. But we’ve had this bourbon cranberry cocktail on repeat since Thanksgiving.

Everyone needs a go-to beverage (is there a better term for it than that?), a drink that you know how to make without looking it up, one that hits the spot. Not one that you have to be in the mood for, or that you only drink on special occasions. If you don’t drink alcohol, perhaps this is a nice cup of tea, or a coffee, or a hot chocolate (since it is cold outside). For us right now, this bourbon cranberry cocktail is it.

This cocktail is loosely based on a Bourbon Cranberry Fizz that I saw before Thanksgiving. It called for bourbon, 100% cranberry juice, and ginger beer. I balked at paying a premium for pure cranberry juice (or maybe I just couldn’t focus enough to find it while I grocery shopped with my 2 year old), and misread ginger beer and bought ginger ale instead. The result was a somewhat sweet, less tart cocktail with a slight cranberry flavor.

Alex and I really enjoy this. I use a cranberry juice blend with 100% juice (I don’t like added sugar), which gives the cocktail slight tannic notes that you get with a Manhattan, without the corresponding wine flavor (which Alex doesn’t like). A word of caution, though: be sure cranberry juice, not another juice, is the first ingredient. Ginger ale (ours is always diet) gives it sweetness and fizz. If you use a smooth bourbon, like Four Roses (which I used in Bourbon Balls), the drink is mellow; if you use a more assertive one, like the Elijah Craig we had in the house, the drink is more bourbon-forward.

Other iterations: I haven’t tried it with 100% cranberry juice, and am not sure I will; when I happened to see some, it was at least $6 and I’m not sure I can justify it when we like this version of the cocktail. I tried it with sparkling wine instead of ginger ale; I do not recommend it. We did try it with ginger beer instead of ginger ale, and the drink was entirely different – with the gingery bite of a Dark and Stormy or a Moscow Mule. Delicious enough, but not a drink we’ll have on a regular basis.

bourbon cranberry cocktail in a glass with ice

Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail
Prep Time
5 mins

This delicious cocktail combines bourbon, cranberry juice, and ginger ale for a somewhat sweet but not cloying drink that's a little like a Manhattan, without the winey flavors of vermouth. Use 100% cranberry juice for an assertive cranberry flavor, and a juice blend for a cocktail with hints of juice. 

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1
Author: Leona Konkel
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 2 ounces cranberry juice (we use a cranberry blend with 100% juice)
  • 4 ounces ginger ale (we always use diet)
  1. Pour bourbon in a glass with ice. Top with cranberry juice and ginger ale. Stir to combine if desired (we never do). Enjoy.

Recipe Notes

When using a cranberry juice blend, be sure that cranberry juice is the first ingredient.

Try this cocktail with 100% cranberry juice for a tarter drink.

Try it with ginger beer instead of ginger ale for a tarter drink.

Use a smooth bourbon for a mellower drink; use a spicier bourbon for a more assertively bourboned drink. 

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