With over 10 years of experience creating home-crafted beverages, I’ve got quite the recipe box! One of the best ways to incorporate seasonal flavors into your homemade recipes is with simple syrups! This homemade cranberry simple syrup recipe is a great way to celebrate the flavors of fall in all of your beverages. It’s tart, sweet, and perfect for sipping all holiday season long!
This recipe was inspired by my cranberry spice syrup, because as good as it is, it’s not that great for cocktails and mocktails. 🥸 I needed something that was thinner and easier to mix into beverages, without settling straight to the bottom like thicker syrups tend to do. This cranberry simple syrup was developed with drinks in mind! It mixes easily into a variety of beverages, from the Yule Mule to the Cranberry Mule Mocktail.Jump to Recipe
💕 why you'll love this cranberry simple syrup recipe
💥 bursting with berry flavor. Cranberries have kind of a bad reputation, but this recipe lets them shine. No, this isn’t the flavor of watered down juice spiked with sugar— this easy recipe is the real deal.
🎉 festive & flavorful. This homemade syrup combines the festive flavor of tart cranberries with syrupy sweetness, making the perfect syrup for the entire cranberry season.
🍹 perfect for drinks. This syrup is thin and perfect for easily mixing into all sorts of holiday drinks. It’s an easy way to use simple ingredients that adds a boost of holiday flavor to any drink!
- cranberries - fresh cranberries are in peak season from early fall through November, but the best thing about cranberries is how well they freeze! You can seriously just throw a bag of fresh cranberries in the freezer when they are freshest, and they'll be better than other frozen berries you can buy. This recipe works with both fresh and frozen berries.
- lemon - you'll need a bit of lemon juice for this recipe. The bright, acidic flavor of lemon adds depth to this syrup and highlights the cranberry flavor.
- granulated sugar - plain old granulated sugar will do for this recipe!
- water - use filtered water to keep the flavor profile neutral.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Step 1: Pour 1 cup of water into a small saucepan, and heat it over medium heat.
Step 2: Add in 1 cup of sugar, stirring until it dissolves.
Step 3: Once the sugar is dissolved, add in the fresh or frozen cranberries, and allow the mixture to simmer over medium-low heat.
Step 4: When the mixture has simmered for about 20 minutes, turn off the heat to the stovetop and add in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
Step 5: Allow the syrup to cool slightly. Then, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the cranberries.
Step 6: Store your finished cranberry simple syrup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
🍽️ serving tips
Simple syrups are best used as a liquid sweetener in beverages because they are so thin in consistency. They don’t work as well for topping desserts like ice cream or on breakfast foods like waffles and pancakes. You can still use a simple syrup on food, but just be aware that it will be thin and may soak into porous foods quickly.
Most cranberry cocktails are made using cranberry juice cocktail. Using this syrup instead allows the cranberry flavor to really shine in all of your homemade cocktails. It works especially well in rum, tequila, and vodka-based drinks! You can even squeeze a bit into a glass of champagne for a cranberry mimosa!
- cranberry martini- the cosmo is famous for a reason, but sadly, most cosmos are made using cranberry juice cocktail! Try whipping up a cosmo using this simple syrup and vodka, and taste the difference fresh cranberries can make.
- cranberry margarita - a classic lime margarita is always a great choice, but by adding in a bit of this simple syrup in place of agave in your recipe, you’ll get a super festive batch of cranberry margaritas!
- cranberry mule - also called a Yule Mule, the cranberry Moscow mule is a classic winter-time cocktail! It mixes the flavors of cranberry, lime, and ginger beer with vodka or rum. My version uses cranberry simple syrup instead of cranberry juice for an even fresher flavor.
You can also use this simple syrup to sweeten non-alcoholic beverages and mocktails! I love using it in homemade soda recipes— it’s the perfect treat on hot summer days!
- cranberry ginger ale mocktail - this mocktail is a nonalcoholic version of a cranberry mule! It’s perfect for indulging in when you are looking for zero-proof drinks during the holiday season.
- homemade cranberry soda pop - make your own homemade sodas by adding 1-2 ounces of key lime simple syrup to sparkling water or seltzer water.
- cranberry iced tea - add this syrup to your favorite iced tea for a subtle hint of sweet cranberry flavor. It also works well in lemonade!
Cooking, Baking, & Gifting
- keep baked goods moist - use this simple syrup to brush layer cakes and keep them moist between layers! This cranberry simple syrup would pair nicely with citrus cake or vanilla cake! It would be absolutely wonderful on berry cakes, too!
- homemade shave ice topping - this syrup works very well as a homemade shave ice topping!
- gift a bottle - this syrup makes an excellent hostess gift, especially during the holidays!
ℹ️ troubleshooting tips
While simple syrups are very, well…simple to make, things can still go wrong. 😳 Try these troubleshooting tips if you run into any hangups while preparing your syrup!
- too thick - if your syrup came to a rolling boil or stayed at a simmer for more than 15 minutes, your final outcome may be closer to pancake syrup than simple syrup. This is because cranberries are very high in pectin, which acts as a thickening agent. You can add more water, ¼ cup at a time, until it gets back to a thinner consistency.
- not enough flavor - you can increase the amount of cranberries to 1.5 or even 2 cups if you want to really intensify the flavor of this simple syrup. You may also need to increase the amount of sugar to offset the tartness.
- too tart - if your syrup is too tart, you can increase the amount of sugar by 2 tablespoon at a time until it reaches a better balance.
taste as you go!
Taste your cranberry syrup as you make it, to determine if you would like to add more sugar or if you like the tartness. If you want more sugar, add it in 2 tablespoon at a time until you get the flavor you like!
⚖️ Scaling Tips
It’s very easy to scale this recipe up if you want to make more, and you can also scale it down if you only want a bit of syrup. I prefer to make a double batch sometimes so I can stash another bottle in the freezer. That way I can make seasonal cranberry beverages any time of year!
🔆 top tip
It is very important to not let the mix get too hot. Cranberries are high in pectin, which is a thickening agent, so if you allow your mix to boil or simmer for too long, it will become thicker. This will give you a thicker syrup which won’t mix into beverages as easily.
Missing an ingredient? No problem. Check out these tried-and-true substitutions, or comment below with your question. I’m here to help you troubleshoot!
- frozen cranberries - In recent years, I’ve been able to find cranberries in the frozen food section of my local grocery store, which is great for making this syrup even if cranberries are out of season! The best part is cranberries freeze very well, so you can easily swap frozen berries for fresh ones!
- sugar - if you don’t have regular granulated sugar, you can use brown sugar or another type of sweetener like honey or agave. Just be aware that certain sweeteners have different sweetness levels, so you may want to start with less sugar or sweetener than you think you need and increase it from there. I do not recommend using artificial sweeteners in simple syrups unless you’re making a recipe specifically developed to use artificial sweeteners or sugar alternatives.
- lime - cranberries and lime play very well together! So you can swap lime for the lemon in this recipe if you only have limes on hand.
Feeling like a rebel?! 😈 Feel free to stray from the recipe card using these variations, or leave me a comment with your own!
- spices - make a spiced cranberry simple syrup by adding in cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, and whole cloves! This variation would be particularly great during the holidays! You can also use a tablespoon or two of mulling spices.
- ginger - you can also add in a little bit of fresh, peeled ginger root to simmer with the cranberries. The two make a great flavor combination!
- orange - this simple syrup is also spectacular when you add orange juice instead of lemon juice! Cranberry and orange is a great combination. You can also add in a bit of fresh orange zest or orange peel to really take the flavor over the top!
🧰 equipment needed
- heavy-bottomed non-reactive saucepan - you can use whatever saucepan you have on hand, I love this 1.5-quart saucepan from All-Clad. The heavy bottom ensures even heating throughout the cooking time! A non-reactive pan is a pan that is made from a metal that doesn’t react to acidic substances, like stainless steel or enameled cast iron. It’s important to not use aluminum if you can help it for this homemade syrup recipe, because cranberries are acidic and could lead the aluminum to impart a metallic taste to your finished syrup.
- non-reactive mesh strainer a fine mesh strainer helps you to separate the whole berries from the liquid after simmering the mixture. Make sure to use a fine-mesh strainer that is made of stainless steel, or use a nylon straining bag for this recipe.
- airtight storage you can use any airtight container you like. These OXO squeeze bottles are a favorite of mine for storing simple syrups because you can also stash them in the freezer. These glass bottles are great for gifting simple syrups to friends and family. You can also use a mason jar!
- measuring cups - if you don’t have a kitchen scale, you’ll likely need some measuring cups. I love using these glass measuring cups from Anchor Hocking because they can tolerate the quick temperature changes that happen when I’m making simple syrups. I also love this set of measuring cups from King Arthur Baking because they are sturdy, nest well, and include any size you’ll ever need!
- kitchen scale - using a kitchen scale has so many benefits, from being more precise to helping you do less dishes! If you use a scale, you can simply put everything right in the pot as you measure it, no need to dirty up a bunch of extra dishes! I have and love this OXO kitchen scale.
You can’t store this syrup at room temperature for longer than a few hours because it uses fresh, perishable ingredients. Store your simple syrup in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can also freeze it for longer storage.
I love storing syrups in these OXO squeeze bottles for easy measuring in recipes. These glass bottles with stoppers from Bormioli Rocco are excellent for gifting, too!
This simple syrup is best used within two weeks. If you want to store it any longer, you can freeze it.
Use this syrup in any cocktail or mocktail that you want cranberry flavor in! It works wonderfully in mules, mojitos, and homemade lemonade!
If you have a recipe that calls for cranberry juice cocktail, you can use this syrup in that. You may want to start with a half ounce of syrup, then the rest of the measurement in water, and taste as you go. For recipes that call for unsweetened cranberry juice, it’s best to use the juice instead of this syrup.
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Cranberry Simple Syrup
- 1 1.5-quart saucepan non-reactive metal, like stainless steel or enameled cast iron
- 1 spatula or spoon
- 230 g cranberries fresh or frozen, 2 cups
- 237 g filtered water 1 cup
- 200 g granulated sugar 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- Pour 237g of water (1 cup) into a 1.5-quart non-reactive saucepan and heat over medium heat.
- Add 200g of sugar (1 cup) to the pan, and stir until it dissolves.
- Lower the heat to medium-low, and add in 230g of cranberries (2 cups).
- Allow the mix to heat over medium-low heat for 15-30 minutes. The longer you simmer the more intense the flavor will be. Make sure to keep the heat LOW because cranberries are high in pectin, and if the mix boils it will become gel-like and thicker.
- After 15-30 minutes, add in 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, if using.
- Remove from the heat and allow your syrup to cool.
- Taste it to make sure it’s the tartness you like, and if needed, gently heat and add 2 tablespoon of sugar at a time until it reaches your desired sweet-tart balance.
- Once your syrup cools, which could take up to 30 minutes, strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the whole berries.
- Store your finished syrup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 3 months.
🧯food safety & other information
Food safety is an important ingredient in any recipe for success! Here are some tips to keep you safe in the kitchen!
- Cranberries pop when they are heated, so be careful to not heat this mixture too high, and use caution when stirring.
- While you can allow this syrup to sit at room temperature, don’t leave it out for longer than 4 hours at a time. This helps to inhibit bacteria growth that can happen from the sugars in the syrup. Read more about the temperature danger zone here.
- Use sterilized containers whenever possible. You can sterilize your containers by boiling them briefly, running them through your dishwasher with the sterilize feature activated, or pouring boiling water into the containers.
- While you may be able to use your simple syrup longer than 14 days in the fridge, if you see any sort of cloudiness or dark spots in the syrup, throw it out. This is mold growth and is not a recipe for fun.
- Never leave simmering syrup unattended on the stove.