Mulled Cranberry-Orange Cocktail for Holiday Sipping (dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free)

Do you love cranberries for their gorgeous festive colour OR are you the person who always passes on the cranberry sauce?

If you’re someone who always skips this tart berry, maybe this easy sipper will help change your mind… and if not, more for me!

Cranberries are at their peak now because they are harvested in the fall and in our area we can buy local cranberries from Bala, Ontario.

With their ruby-red shade, cranberries are also linked to the holidays so they seem like the ideal food for me to eat, cook and bake with as the year of 2013 draws to a close.

High in vitamin C and antioxidants, cranberries have a solid reputation as a healing food for urinary tract infections (UTIs). In fact, Medical News Today reported on some of the latest research about the treatment of UTIs with cranberries earlier this year.

This may be for several reasons: cranberries may help make urine more acidic and therefore make the environment less hospitable for bacteria like E. coli. (which cause many of these types of infections) to establish themselves.

Cranberries may also contain compounds that prevent these UTI-causing bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder. It may also work by a completely different mechanism that science has yet to identify since isolating the specific healing compounds in cranberries has been a difficult task as this 2009 study indicates.

Now you would have to drink A LOT of cranberry juice to possibly get any beneficial effects. However, if your doctor recommends treating your UTI with cranberry juice, it’s essential to buy unsweetened cranberry juice (yes it will be tart!) because sugar will only make symptoms worse. Now, back to our holiday beverage!

This virgin cocktail is perfect for kids and adults alike. You can enjoy this cold or warm or even make it bubbly with a generous pouring of sparkling water (or champagne if you’re like me and plan to drink this on New Years’ Eve!). I’m relying on real, whole foods (real cranberries) instead of store-bought juice cocktail, which is usually processed at high heat, destroying much of its vitamin content. It’s also usually flooded with sugar to make it more palatable and addictive.

I was inspired to use dried fennel in this cocktail. I love the delicate licorice-flavour matched up against the cranberries and the oranges, which I included for a bit of sweetness. Oranges and cranberries are also a natural flavour pairing. The cocktail recipe as written is fairly tart but since you’re in control of the sugar content when you make it homemade, you can adjust the sweetness up or down as you like.  

Here’s how to make my holiday-inspired Mulled Cranberry-Orange Cocktail:

Mulled Cranberry-Orange Cocktail


  • 340 g fresh cranberries
  • 2 large Mandarin oranges about 240 g
  • 2 tsp dried fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup maple syrup


  1. Add the cranberries, oranges and 2 cups of water to a blender and blend well.
  2. Add the blended cranberries and the fennel to a saucepot and cook over medium-low* heat for 40-50 minutes or until warm and fragrant. Stir regularly to ensure the mixture heats evenly.
  3. Strain the hot mixture through a strainer.
  4. Mix in 1 cup of water (cold or hot depending on how you plan to enjoy this) and the maple syrup. Garnish with orange slices and whole, fresh cranberries if you don’t mind a bit of pucker!
  5. * I use a low temperature to preserve as much of the vitamin C as possible.

What’s your favourite holiday drink this time of year?

Life is a plate… eat up!


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