Cranberry Sauce Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Got Thanksgiving leftovers? Time to get creative. Try this Cranberry Sauce Old-Fashioned cocktail made with bourbon, leftover cranberry sauce, orange zest and a burnt rosemary garnish.

a rocks glass with a cranberry sauce old-fashioned next to a kitchen towel, fresh rosemary and a bowl of cranberry sauce

Thanksgiving is almost here, which means it’s almost the best season of the year.

And that season is Thanksgiving Leftovers Season. It’s a short season, but it’s a great one.

Whether you’re enjoying a sandwich of Thanksgiving leftovers or making turkey chili, there’s a lot to love about the day-after holiday meals. Everything is so good on Thanksgiving Day, but it seems to taste better the next day? Am I wrong?

To me, leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving food. I’m not going to pretend I don’t eat cranberry apple casserole and cat head biscuits for breakfast the next day. Because I 100% do. (If there’s any left, that is.)

One of my recent favorite traditions is using my orange bourbon cranberry sauce in a cocktail. It’s made with fresh cranberries, not canned, though you can definitely make it that way if you like.

Last year I used it in my Yule Mules, in which I simply replaced the cranberry juice with cranberry sauce, added vodka and lime juice and gave it a good stir before adding any ice and ginger beer.

a bowl of cranberry sauce with a cranberry sauce old-fashioned

What is an old-fashioned cocktail?

If you haven’t had an old-fashioned before, this is a great one to start with, especially in the presence of friends and family at Thanksgiving.

Old-fashioned cocktails are spirit-forward, meaning they are heavy on the whiskey. They don’t have any mixers like sour mix or soda.

(If you see an old-fashioned on a menu that says it includes club soda, please run far away. Or at the very least order something else.)

The old-fashioned features bourbon with small amounts of added flavor, usually in the form of orange zest, a cocktail cherry, some kind of bitters and either a sugar cube or simple syrup.

a leftover cranberry sauce old-fashioned with a burning piece of rosemary

Cranberry Sauce Old-Fashioned cocktail recipe

This old-fashioned uses leftover cranberry sauce from your Thanksgiving meal, which takes the place of both the sweetener and the cocktail cherry.

The Cranberry Sauce Old-Fashioned cocktail also calls for cinnamon bitters and burnt rosemary, both of which add even more fall flavor.

It’s a delicious cocktail to enjoy after Friendsgiving, a Thanksgiving meal, Christmas dinner or other holiday dinners.

a closeup of a gold spoon with orange bourbon cranberry sauce


You can make your own cranberry sauce old-fashioned with just a few ingredients you probably already have on your holiday table!

Cranberry sauce

Usually, old-fashioned recipes call for simple syrup or a sugar cube to sweeten the drink, but we’re going to use our leftover fresh cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving for this easy recipe.

I much prefer to make homemade cranberry sauce, but you may use canned cranberry sauce if you like. Just make sure to give it a stir if you go this route.

Cranberry jelly or cranberry relish would also work — just use what you have.

I recommend using cranberry sauce at room temperature or even slightly warmed to help it mix easier with the bourbon.

The first time I made this cocktail, I didn’t use enough cranberry sauce. However, I think it will depend on which cranberry sauce recipe you use and how tart the cranberries are. Some recipes will be sweeter and some will be tarter, so use your best judgment and give it a tiny taste before you add your ice cube.

bourbon and cranberry sauce in a rocks glass

Quality bourbon

If you have a favorite bourbon, use it here! Check out my Bourbon 101 guide if you need help picking a brand to buy for your Thanksgiving cocktail.

My husband and I love Old Forester for the sweet caramel flavor it brings to a drink at a good price, but there are many more options out there that would be equally delicious.

I also love Maker’s Mark, Angel’s Envy, Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace. I don’t mind splurging a little on good bourbon at the holidays!

My cinnamon whiskey would also be really delicious in this cocktail, but I’d use a different flavor of bitters such as clove or aromatic.


Ice is always an important piece of any cocktail because the rate it melts plays a big role in how much to dilute the spirits.

For an old-fashioned, I recommend a large cube or sphere because they take longer to melt than lots of little ice cubes. These ice cube trays are great to have on hand.

This will keep your drink from getting diluted quickly, as spirit-forward drinks need to be sipped more slowly than an easy sipper like a mojito.


You can use any bitters that sound good. I used cinnamon bitters in this cocktail, but you’re welcome to use Angostura aromatic bitters. Orange bitters or clove bitters would also be fantastic. Check out my favorite bitters brands for more ideas.

cranberry sauce and a cranberry sauce old-fashioned

Orange zest

Next is a piece of orange peel. This not only gives our old-fashioned a bit more color but the citrus flavor pairs beautifully with tart cranberry and spices. If you like, you can add a splash of orange juice if it sounds good.

I like to use a vegetable peeler to get a 2- to 3-inch piece of orange rind, but you can also use a sharp knife.

Try to peel lightly so you don’t get as much pith (the white part underneath the peel) which will give off a bitter flavor in your drink.

Burnt rosemary

The pièce de résistance is a piece of fresh rosemary, caught on fire. You can use a match, a lighter or a butane torch. Make sure it is fresh and not too dry so you don’t burn the house down!

This should go without saying, but please let the flame fizzle out before you take a sip.

a piece of rosemary burning in a rocks glass with a cranberry sauce old-fashioned

How to make a Thanksgiving old-fashioned cocktail

Making this cranberry sauce old-fashioned recipe is beyond easy! It’s such a good way to re-use classic cranberry sauce.

You don’t even need a cocktail shaker — you can make it right in your fanciest rocks glass.

  1. Make your cranberry sauce ahead of time.
  2. Add a tablespoon or two to a rocks glass. Top with bourbon. Use a muddler to mash the cranberry sauce into the bourbon. Stir to combine.
  3. Carefully spoon in your ice cube. I do this last so the ice doesn’t melt as quickly when I pour the bourbon into the glass.
  4. Add a dash or two of cinnamon bitters over the top.
  5. Garnish with your orange peel. Give it a little twist over your drink to let any oils fall in, then drop it into your drink, wedging it up against your ice cube.
  6. Add a sprig of fresh rosemary for garnish. Do not submerge it all the way. Use a lighter or butane torch to set the tip on fire and let the flame fizzle out before taking a sip.

Thanksgiving leftovers cocktail garnishes

Some other garnish ideas if you don’t have fresh rosemary:

  • Use sugared cranberries. I love making these for my Thanksgiving table — they are so pretty!
  • You can use a cinnamon stick, star anise or other whole spices.
  • A sage leaf or sprig of thyme would also be quite pretty and fragrant! You can’t go wrong.
a cranberry sauce old-fashioned with a bowl of cranberry sauce

Fall old-fashioned cocktail recipes

If you love old-fashioneds in the fall as much as I do, then there are lots of options beyond this Thanksgiving old-fashioned.

Pumpkin pie lovers will adore this pumpkin spice old-fashioned.

Make a peanut butter cup old-fashioned with peanut butter whiskey. Garnish it with some leftover Halloween candy.

This maple old-fashioned is perfect for sipping at Thanksgiving dinner. (Or if you prefer a maple Manhattan, I’ve got you.)

An apple butter old-fashioned cocktail uses real apple butter to sweeten the cocktail. I bet it’s oh so dreamy!

This chai old-fashioned cocktail uses chai tea ice cubes to infuse extra spice flavor.

I also love this peanut butter & jelly old-fashioned which has all the back-to-school vibes.

Let me know if you end up making this Thanksgiving cocktail with leftover cranberry sauce! Leave a review on the recipe card below or tag it #feastandwestrecipes on Instagram.

a leftover cranberry sauce old-fashioned with a burning piece of rosemary

Cranberry Sauce Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Make a Cranberry Old-Fashioned cocktail with your leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving!
4.50 from 2 votes
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  • 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 2 dashes cinnamon bitters
  • 1 piece orange zest
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary


  • In a rocks glass, add cranberry sauce and top with bourbon. Muddle the cranberry sauce into the bourbon. Stir together.
  • Carefully spoon in the ice cube or sphere.
  • Add a dash or two of bitters, to taste.
  • Garnish with an orange peel and a piece of fresh rosemary.
  • Using a lighter or butane torch, light the rosemary on fire and let the flame fizzle out. Repeat one or two times until the burnt rosemary is fragrant.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 cocktail

amount per serving:

Serving: 1cocktail Calories: 271kcal Carbohydrates: 18g Sodium: 4mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 13g
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  1. dlt says

    4 stars
    This is a great cocktail to serve at the beginning of a dinner party. Just enough bourbon to be bold and enough cranberry sauce to be sweet. Only issue was getting my very fresh (straight from my garden) rosemary to smolder. Using the rosemary as a stirring stick, allowed the aroma to come thru when your nose brushed it in taking a sip. Using this at both a cocktail party and as a pre-Thanksgiving dinner this week.

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