Make Ahead

Kentucky Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

October 21, 2013
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

Aged Kentucky bourbon, citrus and spice make this recipe a winner at our holiday table. Watery cranberry sauce is not too appealing on one's plate. So, I use cornstarch mixed with a little water to thicken it a bit. Another gluten-free thickener is potato starch mixed with water. Either one will work here. It's my tried and true favorite holiday cranberry sauce....deep, ruby-red, tangy and sweet. My uncle once ate an entire bowl full. He kept quietly spooning it onto his plate, hoping no one would notice. But of course, I did. I think you'll have a hard time resisting it too.

An orange-lime combo, along with the bourbon, complement the cranberries in a deliciously festive way. This is a pleasantly tart and tangy cranberry sauce. If you'd like it sweeter, add more sugar.

One reader commented that she made this sauce, warmed it, and served it over vanilla ice cream. Her family loved it as a dessert sauce. It's delicious over cheesecake and pound cake too. Mix some leftover cranberry sauce with maple syrup and warm it up. Pour it over pancakes and waffles for a festive breakfast. Put your own spin on it by adding nuts, more spices or whatever you fancy. It's very adaptable. For instance, on occasion, I've omitted the orange and bourbon and used lime juice and Chambord raspberry liqueur instead.

I use Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon in this recipe. Intense and spicy, this cinnamon makes everything better. Stir it into the simmering cranberries and add a little bit of it at the end of cooking to bump up the spice. Use whatever cinnamon you like. Vietnamese cinnamon is strong and rich, so I use less of it.

I bought a nip of Jim Beam Black Label Kentucky Bourbon for this recipe. Two tablespoons of it, gives a pleasant, but not overpowering, bourbon flavor. If you'd like less of a bourbon flavor, use one tablespoon.

This sauce a keeps for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge. It can be frozen a week in advance too. Thaw it in the fridge. In a pinch, you can even thaw it in the microwave. A real time saver!

Double this recipe if serving more than 4 or if you want leftovers for sandwiches.
Jilly Inspired

What You'll Need
  • 1 12oz bag of whole cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • 2 medium oranges, zested and juiced
  • 1 small lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, divided
  • 1 cup of sugar (if you like it sweeter, add more sugar)
  • 1 cup of water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water. This will thicken the sauce and make it more glossy. An alternative, tasteless thickener is one teaspoon potato starch mixed with one teaspoon of cold water.
  1. Place the cranberries, sugar, water, salt, orange juice, orange zest, lime zest, half of the lime juice and one teaspoon of cinnamon in a pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium-medium high heat. Cover and cook until the cranberries have popped and formed a sauce. Turn off the heat and add the bourbon, away from the heat source. Be careful when adding alcohol to any hot sauce. Return the pot to the stove and bring to a boil to burn off the alcohol. Keep it on a gentle boil and add the cornstarch/water mixture or potato starch/water mixture. Let it cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in the rest of the lime juice and the 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Enjoy!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Pamela Turner
    Pamela Turner
  • Lesley
  • Margaret Graf
    Margaret Graf
  • jbfalise

5 Reviews

Margaret G. November 22, 2020
Great recipe! Slightly modified based on what I had in my kitchen. 1/4 cup of frozen orange juice concentrate instead of the oranges, brown sugar, and no water at all. Mashed with a potato masher after boiling a few minutes. Set up beautifully and tastes wonderful!
Pamela T. December 6, 2019
I made this for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner and loved the hits of lime, bourbon and cinnamon. I couldn’t stop sneaking a spoonful every time I opened the fridge and singlehandedly polished it off in a few days. As mentioned, it as great spooned into yogurt, too!
jbfalise November 25, 2015
Just made this for thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Don't be afraid to simplify the recipe and omit: water, citrus peel and cornstarch. I made it with fresh OJ, juice of a lime and reduced the sugar and added a little brown sugar ('cause it rocks with bourbon).

It turned out great!
Lesley December 24, 2014
Just made this a day ahead for Christmas dinner and it's so delicious!! The lime is great. I didn't have bourbon so I subbed spiced rum (seems holiday-ish enough) and that seemed to work!
Lesley October 9, 2016
I've made this several times and have learned to use only half the water called for and then you can omit the cornstarch step.