Bathe your love berries in bubbly

Alistair Cooke, the great British journalist who spent most of his career trying to explain the United States to his befuddled compatriots back home, never quite managed to develop an appreciation for one of the most American of fruits: the cranberry.

In his book Talk About America: 1951-1968, Cooke devoted an entire hilarious chapter to the cranberry, which he viewed as vehicle for understanding the hardy if deluded puritanism at the heart of our nation’s character. The Pilgrims who landed in what’s now Massachusetts had to pretend to enjoy the mug-puckering nuggets that the indigenous people foisted upon them, he reasoned, because the cranberry was all that stood between them and scurvy, if not outright starvation.

“It was what God had ordained for them,” Cooke wrote, “and being God-fearing men they found it good and tasty.”

Ever since, he theorized, Americans have only pretended to enjoy cranberry sauce (“a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes”) as an integral part of the Thanksgiving feast ritual. Cooke himself, being a Brit, was unwilling to adopt the facade. “There are some things in every country that you must be born to endure,” he concluded, “and another hundred years of general satisfaction with America and Americans could not reconcile this expatriate to cranberry sauce, peanut butter, and drum majorettes.”

I have no idea what Cooke thought of Valentine’s Day, especially the way we Americans celebrate it. But I’ll bet I could persuade him to enjoy the cranberry cocktail with which Cuisine Stupide is marking the holiday.

Unlike most cranberry-flavored drinks, such as the ubiquitous Cape Codder, the Lady Womp doesn’t use cranberry juice. Instead, the recipe (featured recently in Chilled magazine) calls for cranberry-infused gin, a concoction that’s seemingly impossible to buy commercially but easy to make at home. A touch of rosemary syrup (also simple to make) and a squirt of lime juice, topped with your favorite sparkling wine, yields a bracing variation on a champagne fizz that’s equal parts tart and sweet—one that proves the cranberry deserves not the infamy that Cooke would bestow but celebration year round, including Valentine’s Day.

And if it makes you pucker a little, well, what better occasion?

Lady Womp

Created by Adrienne Miller and executive chef Rita Bernhardt of Satterfield’s, Birmingham, Ala.

1 1/2 ounces cranberry gin
3/4 ounce rosemary syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Sparkling wine
Sprigs of fresh rosemary for garnish

Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with bubbles and a sprig of rosemary.

Cranberry Gin

Crush 1 pound of fresh (not dried) cranberries in a food processor. Mix cranberries with 750 ml of gin and let stand at room temperature for four hours. Refrigerate overnight. Strain with fine mesh and/or cheesecloth into containers. Keep refrigerated.

Rosemary Syrup

Stir together 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, and 4 fresh sprigs of rosemary in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain with fine mesh strainer into a container. Keep refrigerated.



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