With its zesty flavour, vibrant colour, and wellness-enhancing ingredients, there’s a lot to love about this cranberry cocktail! And we’ve given the drink a unique twist with the addition of a splash of thyme water. This brings a fresh and earthy herbal note to the cocktail, plus a wonderfully soothing aroma we can’t get enough of.
The fascinating history of cranberries
With their rich red hue and tangy tartness, cranberries have long been a key feature of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. However, prior to that, they were a staple part of the Native American diet. People used the berries in everything from food and drink to medicine, including poultices to treat arrow wounds. They even utilised the vibrant scarlet of cranberry juice to dye clothing and other textiles. And now we’re harnessing it to give this cranberry cocktail its gorgeous colour! Interestingly, cranberries were also a central ingredient in an early version of the now-ubiquitous energy bar.(1) Known as pemmican, Native Americans made it by mixing crushed cranberries with dried deer meat and fat tallow. Thanks to its long shelf life and high protein and fat content, pemmican was a vital source of calories on winter trade routes. The word ‘cranberry’ itself likely comes from ‘crane berry’, which is what German and Dutch colonists first called the fruit. They chose this name because the plant’s flower resembles the head and bill of a sandhill crane. Others referred to cranberries as ‘fenberries’ because the fruit grows in fens (marshes). To suit this environment, nowadays many farmers collect the berries using a wet harvesting process. This involves flooding the marshland where they’re cultivated and churning the water to loosen the berries from their vines. As cranberries are buoyant, they float to the surface where workers can easily gather them.(2) Cranberries are naturally quite tart, so their popularity really blossomed when people began sweetening them. Today, we enjoy the berry in all kinds of recipes – from muffins, sauces, and pies to this cranberry cocktail. This is not only thanks to their vibrant taste and colour, but the wealth of potential health benefits they offer. Let’s take a closer look.
Potent plant compounds: cranberry health benefits
Cranberries are rich in several key plant compounds that can boost wellbeing. For instance, these include powerful antioxidant polyphenols, such as quercetin and myricetin. Antioxidants defend the body against cell damage caused by free radicals, which experts have linked to numerous chronic health conditions. Oxidative stress also contributes to ageing, so enjoying a cranberry cocktail might even help to keep you youthful! Perhaps the most well-known health benefit of cranberries is that they can reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.(3) This is in large part thanks to naturally antibacterial phytonutrients called A-type proanthocyanidins. These prevent the bacterium Escherichia coli (a common cause of UTIs) from attaching to the inner surface of the bladder and urinary tract. The antibacterial effect of this compound might also lower the risk of stomach cancer and gastric ulcers. Infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is a major cause of these conditions. Studies suggest A-type proanthocyanidins can prevent H. pylori from attaching to the lining of the stomach and suppress its growth.(4) Likewise, consuming cranberries could help to protect your oral health. The fruit’s antimicrobial properties may inhibit the development of tooth decay and gum disease.(5) However, further investigation is required to clarify this. Incidentally, we don't recommend using this cranberry cocktail as a mouthwash! All of these plant compounds additionally work to support the health of the heart. Research suggests that consuming cranberries can have various benefits for our cardiovascular system. These include improving cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing stiffness in your blood vessels.(6) In turn, this reduces the risk of developing heart disease. Finally, cranberries are a rich source of several key vitamins and minerals. That includes vitamins C, E and K, plus manganese and copper, all of which play vital roles in our wellbeing.
Our colourful cranberry cocktail recipe
Time for the fun part: how to craft your cocktail. Like all good cranberry cocktail recipes, this drink is easy to make and endlessly refreshing. Not to mention, its vibrant hue is sure to put a smile on your face! Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, start by popping the dried cranberries and orange juice into a blender. For maximum health benefits, we recommend using products that don’t have too much added sugar in your cranberry cocktail. Blend the mixture until it’s pureed, and then pour equal amounts into both serving glasses. We suggest choosing clear glasses rather than opaque or colourful ones. That will allow you to admire the drink’s brilliant, rich shade of orange as you enjoy it! Next, add a tablespoon of honey to each cranberry cocktail. You can of course swap this for another sweetener if you prefer, such as agave nectar or maple syrup. Likewise, feel free to adjust the amount you use to suit your palate. Then put two or three orange slices into both glasses for an eye-catching spot of texture. Now it’s time to add a teaspoon of thyme water to each drink. Our not-so-secret ingredient brings a warm and earthy herbal note to the cranberry cocktail, with soothing undertones of mint. Plus, it offers several health benefits of its own, which we’ll discuss below. Give the mix a gentle stir, then pop some ice cubes into each glass to ensure a cool and revitalising drink. Finally, pour in the sparkling water, grab a straw, and your cranberry cocktail is complete. It’s best enjoyed straight away, while the water is still fizzy and the ice has not yet melted!
The health benefits of oranges
The cranberries might be the principal ingredient in this cranberry cocktail recipe, however the orange juice shouldn’t be overlooked. In addition to giving the drink a zesty citrus kick, it takes its nutritional value to the next level. Most famously, oranges are exceptionally rich in vitamin C. Experts have linked diets high in vitamin C to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.(7) As well as being an antioxidant, vitamin C is crucial for supporting the immune system and producing collagen. Collagen is critical for building connective tissue. As such, it’s a major component of everything from muscles and bones to skin and cartilage. Oranges are additionally a good source of folate. The natural form of vitamin B9, this helps to make and repair DNA, produce red blood cells, and metabolise protein. Speaking of heart disease, research indicates that consuming oranges can improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels.(8) Moreover, the flavonoids they contain – like hesperidin and naringenin – may reduce blood pressure and boost the function of blood vessels.(9) These potent plant compounds also possess anti-inflammatory properties. Studies link chronic inflammation with several harmful health conditions, so this is another key benefit of adding orange to your cranberry cocktail. Thanks to the fruit’s high levels of citrates, it may even be useful in preventing the formation of kidney stones. More generally, evidence suggests that a diet rich in citrus fruits could lower the risk of diabetes and certain cancers.(10) We’ll raise a glass of orange-infused cranberry cocktail to that!
Thyme water: the star of the show
The addition of thyme water is what makes this cranberry cocktail recipe truly unique. As mentioned above, it adds an earthy, herbal flavour and fragrance to the drink that’s beautifully fresh and soothing. But more than that, it also brings some extra health benefits to your glass. Just like cranberries, thyme water contains powerful phenolic compounds which act as antioxidants. In addition, thyme offers antibacterial and antiviral properties. That gives you a great excuse to make this cranberry cocktail when you’re feeling under the weather!(11) There is additionally some evidence that the herb could soothe upset stomachs and support digestion. However, more research is necessary to confirm these specific benefits. Because it’s naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial, thyme water can also make an effective mouthwash and improve oral health. In addition, people have traditionally used thyme as a treatment for coughs and sore throats.(12) The plant contains a potent phytonutrient called thymol, which may help to ease muscle spasms and provide some pain relief.(13) Many of these benefits make thyme water hugely beneficial for your skin too. Studies indicate it could work to purify your complexion and tackle symptoms of conditions such as acne.(14) Needless to say, for these particular results, you’d need to apply it topically rather than simply enjoy this cranberry cocktail!