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[Photographs: Autumn Giles]

With fresh cranberries making their pre-Thanksgiving debut in the greenmarket, now is a perfect time to take your cranberry cocktail game beyond cranberry juice. Cranberries make a versatile, sweet-tart syrup that is a workhorse for holiday drinking. This fruity, tannic ingredient is equally at home with bitter apertifs, rich bourbon, or herbal, botanical gin. Make one batch of syrup and try it in these three very different cocktails.

Cranberry, Aperol, and Soda

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The same qualities that make drinks like the Aperol Spritz or Aperol & Soda great for warm weather sipping—they're refreshing and appetite-whetting low alcohol apertifs—make them great match for holiday entertaining, too. (No one wants Grandma to be drunk before dinner's been served.) Tart and tannic fresh cranberry syrup pairs perfectly with the mildly bitter, fruity Aperol. Top it off with seltzer and a couple dashes of orange bitters—no sparkling wine is needed to make this drink delicious.

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Bitter and Bold Sangria

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At its worst, sangria can be too fruity and cloyingly sweet. But this version, which starts with a base of red wine, is bold, bitter, and complex. A shot of Campari provides a bitter backdrop for the cranberry syrup. A bit of bourbon fortifies and adds richness. Fresh oranges are a great flavor match for each of the ingredients, so they serve to tie everything together well. Be sure to refrigerate the ingredients together until completely cool to allow the orange flavor to infuse.

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The Hot and Cold

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This time of year, a steaming mug of bourbon, honey, and lemon isn't a hard sell, but a gin hot toddy might seem like a bit of a leap. Because of its bright citrus notes, New Amsterdam Gin easily makes the transition from G&T to toddy. Built on a base of cooling fresh mint tea, this warming drink is sweetened with ruby-hued cranberry syrup. Topped off with a bit of lemon juice and garnished with a lemon, this bright, fresh take on the hot toddy is every bit as soothing as its whiskey-filled counterpart.

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About the Author: Autumn Giles is a writer in Queens, NY. You can see her work on Autumn Makes & Does, listen to her talk on the Alphabet Soup Podcast, and talk at her on Twitter.

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