CRANBERRY QUEEN AND CRANBERRY HARVEST PHOTOS BY BECCA DILLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
During the Siege of Drogheda, Ireland in the summer of 1649, the Royal Governor, Sir Arthur Aston was beaten to death with his own wooden leg.
Armadillos are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for several minutes, as they walk across the bottoms of rivers to cross them.
In the 15th Century BC, rather than rule the Egyptian Empire as regent to her son, the Royal Heir, Queen Hatshepsut wore a false beard and declared herself Pharaoh. Because she was a pretty good pharaoh, the Egyptians apparently collectively shrugged and went along with it.
On his first collecting trip to Africa in 1896, Carl Akeley, the Father of Modern Taxidermy, was attacked by a leopard, who seized his right hand in its mouth. Akeley strangled the leopard with his left hand.
These are four fascinating facts, any of which would make a gripping series on Amazon or Netflix.
What do they have to do with cranberries?
Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Bubkis.
In fact, while delicious and refreshing, perhaps the most surprising fact about cranberries is that there is not a single interesting story in the entire history of cranberryhood.
So, we’ll have to invent one.
But first, make yourself a drink before we settle in for a patently absurd Cranberry Story.
2 oz. Blanco tequila – I like Hornitos.
1 oz. Fresh squeezed lime juice
¾ oz. Homemade cranberry syrup (see below)
- Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Tell your digital assistant to play something by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.
- Shake this cocktail brutally, then strain into a coupé glass.
- Find a comfortable chair.
If you have something sweet and syrupy, you can almost certainly use it to make a pretty good margarita. Cranberry syrup takes things one step further, firmly into Delicious territory. Cranberry goes extremely well with lime. Both fruits are puckeringly sour, and can stand up to the tequila’s assertiveness. The sweetness of the syrup mellows everything out and makes this smooth and very, very drinkable, the sort of cocktail that might lull a listener into a suggestive state – suggestive enough to listen to a preposterous story.
A Short Story – The Cranberry Queen
When Charlotte sent in her application to be Cranberry Queen, it seemed straightforward enough. She was looking at colleges, and she was going to have to pay at least part of her own way through school – her parents had been extremely articulate on that point.
Charlotte had to admit that her odds of nailing down an academic scholarship weren’t great. The confluence of her physical blossoming and her discovery of an intense interest in boys with fast cars had pretty much eclipsed her attention to academics over the past year or so. It had also distracted her from summer jobs which she could have used to save for college.
That meant that she had to get more creative with her search for scholarship money.
The search for a Cranberry Queen seemed like a good bet. Charlotte had heard that beauty pageants often awarded solid scholarships, and she knew she would look good in a bathing suit and a ball gown. She could sing – a little – and she figured that with a week or so to practice and enough internet videos for reference, she could learn to twirl a baton or make guacamole or something for the talent portion of a competition. So, she sent in an application.
To her surprise, this resulted in a second, longer (much longer – nearly 40 pages long) application that called for some pretty unexpected information:
- A detailed astrological chart of the time and place she was born
- Comprehensive genealogical information, going back five generations on both sides of her family
- Fifteen character references (Charlotte had to invent the final three out of whole cloth.)
- A Rorschach Test
- A dream journal
- A sample of her hair
And even stranger things, including a 2,000-word essay on her feelings about bears.
Apparently, someone liked Charlotte’s answers, because two weeks later, she had a round of interviews with attorneys, and professional photo shoots with the expected ball gowns, but also ruby-encrusted tiaras, and even – she was pretty sure – a genuine Lipizzaner Stallion.
A more suspicious girl would have paused at some point to question all this, but the same trusting nature that had made Charlotte so popular with the boys with fast cars made her more than willing to indulge in the adventure of the process, and she threw herself into it with a smile.
Which – long story short – is how Charlotte Pimpernel found herself being crowned the Cranberry Queen.
Not, as she eventually discovered, the winner of a beauty pageant sponsored by the Cranberry Council, but the actual Queen of Cranberries. The sovereign monarch of the actual berries.
She got off to a bit of a rocky start, admittedly. She knew that as the Ruler of the Cranberries, she was supposed to take an antioxidant stance, but a poor understanding of synonyms, and a worse grasp of spelling led her to declare hostilities against the Occident – North America and Europe – which was fortunately smoothed over fairly quickly.
But as Charlotte matured and grew into her role, she grew to love her subjects, who, in turn, adored and venerated her. In later years, they came to view her as their collective Granberry. Her reign was long and fruitful. She lived happily, and with a squeaky-clean urinary tract.
2 oz. Aged golden rum – In this case, Kirk and Sweeny
1½ oz. Unsweetened cranberry juice
¾ oz. Amaretto
- Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Shake thoroughly.
- Serve in a small, stemmed glass, like a Nick & Nora glass.
This is a take on a classic daquiri – good rum, something sweet, and something acidic. In this particular case, the I’ve subbed out the lime juice with cranberry juice. The cranberry is extremely sour, but not as acidic as citrus juice, so this drink has a little more of it to balance out the sweetness of the amaretto and the booziness of the rum.
It is a lovely, not-too-sweet drink that lends itself to listening to ridiculous stories – whether it’s about cranberry royalty or one of your brother-in-law’s conspiracy theories at a holiday party.
As we all know, character references are, by their nature, deceptive. So is this drink.
2 oz. Vodka – I’ve been very pleased with Ukrainian Heritage, recently.
1½ oz. Triple Sec
3 oz. Unsweetened cranberry juice
Seltzer to top – ~ 3 oz.
- Shake the vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice with ice, strain into a tall glass.
- Top with seltzer, stir gently.
- Garnish with an orange wedge and a straw.
This is a lovely, light-tasting highball that – like most character references – neglects to tell you its whole story. Cranberry and orange are another classic combination. The vodka plays its part behind the scenes and will look over its shoulder saying, “Who? Me?” if you go looking for it. Keep in mind though, that this has three and a half ounces of alcohol in it.
This is an excellent holiday party drink – it looks so lovely that other party guests are likely to ask for a sip, then ask for one of their own. After several people have had several of these, the conversations will get significantly more interesting.
Cranberry Syrup Two Ways
- Combine equal amounts (by weight) of frozen, whole cranberries and white sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, crush berries, and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain and bottle.
- Combine equal amounts (by volume) of unsweetened cranberry juice and white sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Leave on a boil for ten to twenty seconds to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Allow to cool, then bottle.
Ether version will be delicious – like grenadine with a better personality. The whole-fruit version will be a bit thicker, due to the pectin in the berries. The juice version will be a little thinner and clearer.