Side Dish

Bourbon & Orange Cranberry Sauce

This remix on cranberry sauce includes very southern ingredients such as Kentucky bourbon, sorghum, and brown sugar.

In my holiday feels

With the holidays around the corner, I am eager to spend time with my family! And of course, eat ALL the holiday goodies. This year I am focusing on experiences, creating memories, and being present thanks to my son Freddie. Now that he is a toddler, I am excited for him to experience this joyous season. 

Just this week, I attended the Thankful Lunch at Freddie’s daycare. It was so bittersweet seeing how my toddler interacts with his classmates. His teachers prepared and served turkey, dressing, green beans, and mashed potatoes served. 

Like most of the parents there, I intended to eat but spent most of the time redirecting my kid. Freddie was SO excited to see Mommy in his class in the middle of the day. The only food I ate was the spoonfuls he eagerly shoved in my mouth and the gravy handprints he left on my pants. Regardless… I LOVED EVERY MOMENT!!! 

Twists on traditions

Holiday events like the Thankful Lunch this week had me as pondering about traditions and preparing for upcoming holiday events- especially those that I’ll be hosting soon. I decided it would be fun and worthwhile to make a few twists on some classic holiday dishes that we all have enjoyed since childhood. 

For example, this bourbon and orange cranberry sauce! If you are looking for a remix on traditional cranberry sauce or just want to move away from the canned stuff, you should try my version. 

Bourbon class in front of fresh cranberries in a bowl and an orange

Of course, my cranberry sauce is very KENTUCKY. It includes brown sugar and sorghum as sweeteners. The bourbon gives it an untraditional, yet flavorful depth. 

Mise En Place

  • Fresh Cranberries: Be sure to rinse and drain them. 
  • Brown Sugar – I used a 1/4 cup packed.
  • Sorghum – This is a syrupy sweetener that is common in the South. You can sub in molasses or honey. 
  • Bourbon – Use your favorite bourbon! I used Evan Williams in this. 
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Orange- This recipe calls for using the entire orange. You’ll zest it first and then cut in half to use the juice. 
  • Thyme- Fresh herbs are best. Remove from stems and lightly chop. You may also try rosemary or marjoram for a different variation. 
  • Cinnamon and allspice- this combo gives the sauce that fall feeling we all love during the holidays.

Making the Bourbon & Orange Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is actually quite simple to make. All of the ingredients are combined in a pot with a little bit of water added. Be sure to split the vanilla pod, scrape the vanilla beans into the mixture but don’t discard the pod. You’ll add the pod to the pot and remove it later.

Ingredients for Bourbon and orange cranberry sauce that have been added to the pot.

Next, you’ll bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the temperature. Lowering the temp will allow the cranberries to cook through and for the sauce to thicken. Cranberries pop open as they cook, so if this is your first time cooking them, don’t be alarmed. You’ll know that your sauce is done once all of the berries pop open. You can now remove the vanilla bean pod.

Once the sauce cools, it is ready to serve, and you can garnish it with fresh herbs and more orange zest if desired. 

Bourbon and orange cranberry sauce garnished with additional orange zest and fresh thyme.


On Thanksgiving week, I usually make my cranberry sauce 2-3 days ahead of time. It keeps very well refrigerated in an airtight container. I personally do not reheat the sauce. I usually either serve it chilled or at room temperature. I have not tried freezing it yet, so I am unsure how well it does frozen and thawed. 

All in All

I hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends! Remember to enjoy every moment with your loved ones and appreciate the meals we get to fellowship over. Also, have some fun in the kitchen changing up traditional recipes.

If you’re looking for some more great holiday dish options, consider these…

Appetizer: Pimeto Cheese

Side Dish: Smashed Potatoes w/ truffle oil, sage & parmesan

Pie or Dessert Topping: Bourbon Whipped Cream

Have you ever made a “twist” on a traditional holiday food or dish? Please share what you did. If not, what’s a holiday dish you would want to change up?

Bourbon & Orange Cranberry Sauce

This remix on cranberry sauce includes very southern ingredients such as Kentucky bourbon, sorghum, and brown sugar.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American


  • 4 cups fresh cranberries rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 orange zested and juiced
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2-3 springs fresh thyme removed from stems and lightly chopped
  • 1/4 cup water


  • In a large pot combine all ingredients except vanilla bean. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the mixture. Add the pod as well.
  • Bring ingredients to a boil and lower the temperature. Let simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the majority of the cranberries burst open. Turn off heat and allow to cool before serving.
  • Discard vanilla bean pod and serve cranberry sauce at room temperature or chilled. To garnish, add additional orange zest and/or fresh thyme.


* If you don't have sorghum in your area, you can sub in honey or molasses. Sorghum and molasses have the same dark color.