Cranberry Vanilla Bean Syrup, a Compote and a Cocktail

by formerchef on November 22, 2011

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Lately I’ve had an obsession with vanilla beans. Don’t ask me why, I just think everything tastes better with a little real vanilla bean added to it. This is coming from someone who has always been a chocolate girl at heart. While chocolate is my longtime love, vanilla beans are my latest crush. Unlike adding vanilla extract, using the fresh bean will actually perfume your food. You will smell the vanilla before you taste it.

I wanted to make a holiday inspired syrup as a mix-in to use with my SodaStream soda. Then of course, I thought “Who doesn’t need want a cocktail on Thanksgiving?” In my family, it’s become tradition to start a large meal with an ice cold shot of gin so the cocktail is an homage to that traditional as well.

Finally, the compote was simply an unexpected bonus. I wasn’t really thinking about what I’d do with the cranberries after straining them for the syrup, but I found I was left with this wonderful, vanilla infused, sweet/tart compote. While too sweet to go alongside your turkey, let me tell you, it is absolutely divine atop ice cream or stirred into plain yogurt. I’ve been eating it every morning on top of cottage cheese for breakfast.

So, here is my Thanksgiving gift to you, three recipes in one. Enjoy!

Vanilla Beans and fresh cranberries

Cranberry Vanilla Bean Syrup Recipe

Cranberry Vanilla Syrup Printable Recipe in PDF

12 oz fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 fresh vanilla bean

In a heavy bottomed pot combine the fresh cranberries, water and sugar. Split the vanilla bean open lengthwise, and then cut it in half. Add it to the pot.

Vanilla Beans

Bring the syrup to a simmer. The cranberries will start to pop. Stir and press the cranberries against the sides of the pot to smash them a little to extract more juice. Cook for about 15 minutes and then turn off the heat. Allow to steep and cool slightly for another 15 minutes.


Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer (see below). What is left in the strainer is the compote so don’t toss it!. The syrup should be bright red, almost translucent and may have vanilla bean flecks in it.

Cranberry Syrup

Cranberry Compote

Cranberry Vanilla Compote

During the testing of this recipe I used both fresh and fresh-frozen cranberries and there was no difference in the result, so stock up while they are in season and on sale!

Yield: About 3.5 cups of syrup and 2 cups of compote.

For a great soda, add about 1 oz of syrup to 12 oz seltzer water.

Cranberry Vanilla Cocktail

Cranberry Vanilla Gin Cocktail
(aka Cranberry Gin & Juice Cocktail)

2 oz Cranberry Vanilla Syrup
1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
2 oz Gin

In a cocktail shaker combine all ingredients and shake vigorously. Pour into a pretty cocktail glass (the ones in the photo have been in my husband’s family for over 100 years and were brought here from Russia). Garnish with fresh cranberries and lime zest.
Makes two cocktails.

Cranberry Vanilla Cocktail


1 Anise K. Strong November 22, 2011 at 7:39 am

Ooh, I may need to make some of that for Christmas. 🙂

2 Sharon Miro November 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

I am so sorry I missed this cocktail…the compote was great!

3 Amy Kramer November 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

Can’t wait to toast with one of those!

4 Liz Meyer November 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I can’t believe how this fell right into my lap/inbox:) I was asked to bring some type of cranberry cocktail drink to Thanksgiving so I get on the computer to look for one and here I go! Thank you!! I’m on my way to the store to get the cranberries and I’m wondering why you chose Roses lime over fresh? Does the cocktail taste better with Roses?

5 formerchef November 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I used Rose’s because I always have a bottle in the fridge, but if you want to try it with fresh I think it will be good, only a little more tart.

6 Chez Us November 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm

I am always obsessed with Vanilla Beans – you can do so much with them! I have been searching for a Thanksgiving cocktail, and this is perfect … gin, vanilla and cranberries!! Hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!! xo Denise

7 Amy November 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I agree, what a great drink for Christmas and high in anti-oxidants.

8 charlotte November 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Oh my, this looks amazing! I have some big fat juicy vanilla beans at home and of course a bunch of cranberries. Wonder how this might taste with bourbon?

9 Reanald November 28, 2011 at 7:14 am

Thanks for sharing this. I was planning on having cocktail serve this coming Christmas season. This was really a life saver.

10 Lily November 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm

This would be great for Christmas too with a little spring of mint of something green. That compote sounds even better than the drink to me though. Yum!

11 Jenn @LeftoverQueen November 30, 2011 at 5:08 pm

I could go for one of these now!

12 Barbara | Creative Culinary December 1, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I love cranberries; I feel a bit obsessed even. I’ve made cranberry sauce, cranberry cheesecake and my favorite sandwich with turkey and cranberry this week. I’m turning a bit red even. But I’ve got some leftover and syrup would be perfect. And easy. Very nice!

13 Torrie @ a place to share... December 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I love this- 3 in one (thank you!)… & yes- a cocktail on thanksgiving = a NEED. (that gin tradition sounds like something we need to adopt :))

We make cranberry orange vodka every year (we have never saved the compote, but this year, I will… although it’ll be an adult-only version of yours!)… Here are the links if you’d like to see!

14 Stephan Hilson December 3, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Cranberry and vanilla sound a good combination for a refreshing drink. I love eating cranberry because it seems crunchy. Where can I buy seltzer water? I also like how the drink was presented in the photograph. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

15 Kali December 4, 2011 at 11:56 am

Such a great recipe. I never really think of ways to spice up a plain ole seltzer water. My husband doesn’t drink so I think he would love this. Have you tried adding other ingredients into the mix? I thought maybe orange zest would be good in this one, or maybe a little honey to sweeten it up. So many ideas, thanks for sharing!

16 formerchef December 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Thanks Kali! No, I haven’t added anything else to this specific recipe, but I think those would make great additions. i have some other syrup recipes here so I wanted to keep this one distinctly different.

17 Jessie December 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm

How long will the syrup keep? I assume you refrigerate it?

18 formerchef December 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Yes, I refrigerate it. I would say it will keep at least a couple weeks in the refrigerator. There’s not much in it to “go bad” but I can’t say for sure.

19 Amalia Hughes December 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Absolutely divine !

20 Faythe December 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

The cranberry cocktail sounds delicious. I have everything except the gin. Would vodka work? If not, I’ll be off to the store.

21 formerchef December 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Of course! I think it will be great with vodka.

22 Marian December 20, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I have tried with vodka and can confirm that it does infact work and it works well!

23 Jason February 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Can I do this with cherries instead?

24 formerchef February 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I haven’t tried it but why not?

25 Jason February 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Well cool! I just ordered 10 vanilla beans. I wonder if frozen cherries would be okay to use?

26 formerchef February 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I think so.

27 Jason February 9, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Update. I made this using a 16oz frozen bag of black cherries and one vanilla bean. Turned out pretty dang good, but the vanilla bean overtook the cherry flavoring. So it is like a cream soda with a hint of cherry. I might use half a vanilla bean next time.

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