Ah, the holidays. Don’t you just love them? The joy of seeing the places you routinely visit decorated with plastic pine garlands and shiny, red ornaments. Gingerbread and eggnog everything. Unbearable Christmas music that blares through every store from Thanksgiving until New Year’s. After reflecting, I wouldn’t describe the holidays as a totally joyous time but rather a season ripe with anxieties and stress.
Thus, it’s not surprising that many drown these stressors in alcohol during the holidays. Over the past few months, I’ve been evaluating my own relationship with alcohol and the times I use it. I’ve found that alcohol can make a gathering more fun, yet it is unnecessary if you’re around the right people that can bring a good time just through their presence. Additionally, alcohol can also have adverse effects like irritability, stomach issues and saying things you might regret the next morning.
I know Martinelli’s has become the go-to alcohol-free celebratory beverage, but I find it a little too boring, especially given all the other nonalcoholic drink options you can find in stores these days. This alcohol-free cranberry pomegranate spritz feels sophisticated and festive with the addition of homemade simple syrup and fancy garnishes that are bound to get you in the holiday mood.
Ingredients (makes 2 drinks):
- 1 6.8-ounce bottle of Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Beer
- 2 large square-shaped ice cubes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
For the simple syrup:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup fresh cranberries
- ⅓ cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 tablespoons tart cherry juice (optional)
For the sugared cranberries:
- ½ cup fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup granulated sugar plus some for dusting the cranberries
- ⅓ cup water
- Make the pomegranate ice cubes the night before. While these do not enhance the flavor of the drink, they do look pretty! Use a large, square-shaped ice cube tray and fill each ice cube with a few pomegranate seeds before freezing overnight.
- Next, make the simple syrup by combining sugar and water in a pot using medium heat. Slowly stir until the sugar is fully dissolved before adding in the cranberries and pomegranate seeds. Turn off the heat and let things steep for 10 minutes.
- Pour the syrup into a strainer to separate out the cranberries and pomegranate seeds. For a more flavorful and colorful syrup, add in two tablespoons of tart cherry juice and mash the cranberries and pomegranate seeds with an immersion blender, or just a fork, before straining the fruit mixture again and combining it with the simple syrup.
- Yet again, combine sugar and water in a saucepan using medium heat until the sugar dissolves. (You can also use any excess simple syrup for this step.) Let the mixture cool to room temperature before using it to coat fresh cranberries. Allow the cranberries to dry for 30 minutes before dusting lightly with sugar.
- Finally, assemble the drink by placing one cube of ice in a short glass. Add in your desired amount of cranberry simple syrup, ginger beer and lime juice. Garnish with sugared cranberries and a rosemary sprig. Enjoy!
This mocktail takes a little longer to make than most mixed drinks but making it was also a way to force myself to slow down during the hectic holiday season. Peeling away the layers of pomegranate to extract the tiny seeds is a painstaking process that I found oddly therapeutic. Slowly stirring the simple syrup until it dissolved meant I had to focus on the task at hand so I wouldn’t burn the pot of sugar, but it also meant that I couldn’t use that time to doomscroll on Instagram or become jealous of everyone’s seemingly extravagant travel plans. I hope that making this drink isn’t only enjoyable for its sweet and tart flavors, but that the process can also give you a glimmer of relaxation amidst holiday chaos.