Cranberry Simple Syrup

Brighten holiday spirits with Cranberry Simple Syrup. Made with fresh cranberries, this syrup tastes wonderful mixed into all kinds of holiday drinks or drizzled over desserts.

Evergreen boughs surround cranberry simple syrup in a jar with cinnamon sticks and whole cranberries

Cranberry Simple Syrup recipe

Whenever I see fresh cranberries at the grocery store, I know the holiday season is right around the corner.

From homemade cranberry sauce with the turkey to sugared cranberries bedazzling a cocktail, these ruby red berries are a quintessential holiday ingredient.

When cranberries are in season, it’s an excuse to make all the cranberry drinks. A great way to do that is to make cranberry simple syrup that you can mix into your favorite recipes.

Cranberry syrup is my new favorite way to bring festive flavor to drinks and desserts this time of year.

Why you’ll love this recipe

This syrup is full of cranberry flavor and I think your taste buds are going to be so happy when you taste it. Here are some reasons to love it:

  • It’s an easy recipe that only requires three ingredients.
  • Though you can buy cranberry syrup, making it yourself means you know exactly what’s in it. No corn syrup here!
  • It’s a festive addition to holiday cocktails to serve at Christmas and Thanksgiving, and all winter long.
Overhead view of a bowl of whole cranberries, evergreen boughs and a round wooden cutting board with a handle holding cinnamon sticks, cranberries and a hexagon glass jar with red simple syrup

What is simple syrup?

Simple syrup is an easy-to-make liquid sweetener that is used in all kinds of drinks and desserts.

Homemade simple syrup is super easy to make with just sugar and water. To make a flavored syrup, it’s infused with fruit, herbs and spices. (In this case, we’re using cranberries!)

Sweetening cocktails, tea and coffee drinks are the most common uses for simple syrup, but it can also be drizzled over desserts like vanilla ice cream or poured over breakfast foods like French toast (in lieu of maple syrup).

See the section below called “Uses for cranberry simple syrup” to see some other ways to use this festive syrup.

Overhead view of a gold bowl containing whole cranberries, a glass Pyrex measuring cup of water and a stainless steel measuring cup of sugar

Ingredients

Homemade cranberry syrup comes together with just three simple ingredients. Here’s what to grab at the grocery store:

Cranberries

Cranberries are the key ingredient in this recipe. Though you can use frozen cranberries in this recipe, fresh fruit has a stronger flavor, which is why I prefer them to using frozen cranberries or cranberry juice. (I also like having leftover cranberries for garnishes on my drinks, too!)

However, it’s totally fine to use frozen cranberries instead. It really does not matter since the cranberries are cooked.

If you only have access to cranberry juice, simply do this:

  1. Warm ½ cup cranberry juice and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Give it a good stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Let cool completely to room temperature. Store in a mason jar or other airtight, food-safe container.

Water

While tart cranberries are the star of this recipe, the type of water you use will make a difference.

If your tap water is safe to drink, tap water will work fine. However, filtered or distilled water will yield even better and purer results.

When mixed with berries and spices that can go bad, the purer water will help to make your syrup last longer in the fridge.

Sugar

You can make cranberry sugar syrup with either brown sugar or white sugar. Cane sugar will also work.

Brown sugar will have more of a butterscotch undertone and white sugar will have more caramel and molasses notes.

Which sugar you use does affect the color. I used white sugar in this recipe to give it a lighter color, but brown sugar syrup has a much darker color.

How to make Cranberry Simple Syrup

Place cranberries and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil.

Lower heat to a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the cranberries pop. The mixture will turn red.

With a fine-mesh sieve, strain mixture into a measuring cup. Discard the solids.

Pour the liquid back into the saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, but don’t boil. Remove from heat.

Store your delicious cranberry syrup in an airtight container such as a bottle or mason jar.

Deep red syrup drips off a gold spoon into a jar of simple syrup surrounded by ingredients like whole cranberries and cinnamon sticks with a bowl of cranberries and evergreen boughs in background

How to thin Cranberry Syrup

Cranberries naturally contain pectin, which is a substance that causes fruit to thicken up, à la jams and jellies.

The trick is not letting the cranberries get so hot that they pop. When they pop, the skins are broken which is what releases the pectin.

Once you mix it with sugar, you pretty much have a super thick syrup.

If you do wind up with a thick cranberry syrup, you have a couple of options. You can either warm it slightly before mixing with it, but if it is going to meet ice… it will likely seize up and become jam-like again.

The other, better option is to add some more hot water to the syrup before you use it. This is the same method we use for honey syrup to make honey runnier.

A gold spoon rests in a hexagon jar of cranberry-colored simple syrup with whole cranberries, cinnamon sticks, evergreen boughs and a golden bowl of cranberries around it

Variations and substitutions

Cinnamon Cranberry Syrup: Add a cinnamon stick to the cranberries while they cook with water to infuse a cinnamon flavor.

Spiced Cranberry Syrup: Add a few allspice berries, whole cloves and chopped ginger into the cranberries while they cook.

Cranberry Orange Syrup: Add two 1-inch pieces of orange zest into the cranberry-water mixture while it cooks to infuse some citrus flavor. Lemon zest or lime zest would be nice, too!

Cranberry Apple Syrup: Use apple cider instead of water to make a flavorful syrup with tons of fall flavor.

Festive red simple syrup sits in a glass jar atop a light wood cutting board, surrounded by cinnamon sticks and cranberries with a gold bowl of cranberries in background

Uses for cranberry syrup

Add it to an old-fashioned cocktail with your favorite bourbon. (See this Thanksgiving version that uses leftover cranberry sauce.)

Use it in a Moscow mule to make the holiday version called a Yule Mule.

Stir it into iced tea for an easy holiday libation.

Add it to vodka sodas for a lighter cocktail.

Use it to make a festive cranberry margarita.

Add it to a glass of champagne to make a cranberry champagne cocktail.

Mix it with club soda to make an Italian soda, which is a super easy mocktail.

Drizzle it over cranberry pancakes or gingerbread waffles on Christmas morning.

More simple syrup recipes

A gold spoon rests in a hexagon jar of cranberry-colored simple syrup with whole cranberries, cinnamon sticks, evergreen boughs and a golden bowl of cranberries around it

Cranberry Simple Syrup

Yield: ¾ cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Mix Cranberry Simple Syrup into your holiday cocktails and mocktails, or drizzle it over desserts and breakfast treats. This recipe is easy to double if you need more syrup!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Place cranberries and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil.
  2. Lower heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the cranberries begin to pop, remove from heat. The mixture will become bright red.
  3. With a fine-mesh strainer, strain the liquid into a measuring cup. Discard the solids.
  4. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, but don’t boil. Remove from heat.
  5. Store in an airtight, food-safe container such as a bottle or mason jar.

Notes

If your syrup is too thick

Cranberries naturally contain lots of pectin, which is a substance that causes fruit to thicken up, à la jams and jellies.

The trick is not letting the cranberries get so hot that they pop. When they pop, the skins are broken which is what releases the pectin. Once you mix it with sugar, you pretty much have a super thick syrup.

If you do wind up with a thick cranberry syrup, you have a couple of options. You can either warm it slightly before mixing with it, but if it is going to meet ice it will likely seize up and become jam-like again. The other, better option is to add some more hot water to the syrup before you use it. This is the same method we use for honey syrup to make honey runnier.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 73Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 17gProtein: 0g

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