Winters are the time to surround ourselves with things that warm us, both from the inside and out. We have a plethora of ways to ward off a chill — but how can you winterize your cocktails?

Brown spirits are made for winter. Brandy, whiskies (Scotch, bourbon, Irish, rye, et al.) and some styles of rum and Tequila too, all belong to the official category of “Brown Spirits.” Their aromas and flavors are reminiscent of cold weather comfort foods like stewed fruits, baking spices, caramel and vanilla. Delicious on their own, but they can really shine when mixed into simple cocktails.

Many people think that compared to vodka or gin, whiskies pack a caloric wallop, Oh contraire! Swapping whiskey for vodka only bumps up the calories in your cocktail by a mere 6 calories per ounce.

So with the seasons changing, think about swapping, clear spirits with the perfect-for-winter whiskey drink like the classic Old Fashioned. If you are entertaining at home or travelling to see friends and family, here is a festive, low sugar version of a Spiced Cranberry Old-Fashioned, swapping a sugar cube with a homemade all natural spiced cranberry pomegranate syrup. Cheers!

Spiced Cranberry Old-Fashioned
2 oz of Bourbon or Rye (I used Templeton Rye)
.5 oz Spiced Cranberry Pomegranate Syrup * recipe below
2 dashes orange bitters (optional)
Add all ingredients to a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir with a bar spoon for 30 rotations to chill, blend and dilute. Garnish with a 2” strip of orange peel.
Spiced Cranberry Pomegranate Syrup
16 oz POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
8 oz fresh cranberries
8 oz granulated sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
12 whole black peppercorns
4 pods star anise

There are 5 easy steps to making this: Combine, heat, steep, cool and strain.

  1. You’ll need to heat the juice just enough to soften the cranberries and dissolve the sugar. Add all of the above ingredients to a 4-cup glass measuring cup or bowl or do in smaller batches if needed.
  2. Microwave on high for two minutes; stop if cranberries begin to pop. Remove from microwave and stir to dissolve the sugar. If not dissolved after two minutes, microwave in one minute increments until sugar dissolves when stirred. You can do this is a saucepan, but the microwave works great.
  3. Once the sugar is dissolved let the mixture steep until cooled.
  4. Remove the large pieces of spices and pour the rest through a metal mesh tea-strainer with handle, into a mason jar or other small glass container.
  5. Mash the cranberries through the strainer with back of ladle, or large spoon. Clean the strainer and strain twice if not free of particles.

If you’re not planning on using your syrup within 4 weeks, stir in one ounce of vodka as a preservative at the end. Store in glass container with lid. Keep it in the refrigerator and it will last 4-6 months. Batch can be halved if desired.