Some distillers might talk about the limestone water that runs through their property, or the heirloom crops in their mash. But it would be hard to find a spirit more deeply rooted in its place than : classic New England rum infused with cranberries, indigenous to Massachusetts and still the state’s number-one agricultural crop. Harvested through mid-November, cranberries are a forever-American holiday tradition, and Craneberry, distilled by GrandTen Distilling in Boston, is a new way to experience a flavor most people associate with either turkey sauce or Ocean Spray juice.
What It Is
Referencing the name used by early settlers because the cranberry flower resembles the head of the sandhill crane (nests around marshes or bogs), Craneberry Liqueur has a slightly tart, slightly sweet quality, whether taken alone like sherry or to balance a cocktail.
How To Make It
Step 1: The foundational rum is composed from multiple sugar sources including blackstrap molasses, a concentrated by-product of sugarcane production with lots of flavor and tons of aromatics.
A proprietary blend of yeast strains is added and the mixture is fermented in open tanks. Unlike closed fermentation tanks, open-top vessels expose the mixture (as it converts sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide) to changing ambient factors (local microflora like the bacteria and wild yeast in the air) that contribute to the fermentation, almost like a fingerprint of the space. “I don’t want to use a word like terroir here, but environmental fermentation is similar,” says cofounder Matt Nuernberger. (He’s an M.B.A., his cofounder/cousin is a chemist.) “The earthy sweetness was our regional signature, before rum started being made everywhere.”
Step 2: Transferred to stainless-steel tanks, the rum base gets the final layer of flavor complexity from added cranberries (about eight pounds for every barrel), which macerate for about a week. Filtered and minimally sweetened for balance, Craneberry is proofed down to bottle strength at 30 percent ABV, highly sippable on its own or extremely mixable in cocktails. (See the Holiday Craneberry Manhattan down below.)
Where It's Made
South Boston’s foundry, a rehabbed 19th-century wireworks, originally the Alger Iron Works, specializing in cast-iron ordnance, built by inventor and metallurgist Cyrus Alger and site of the first gun ever rifled in America.
Nuernberger was committed to an urban location. “It’s an expensive endeavor that pays off in street-level vitality,” he says. “What other manufacturing goes on in the middle of a city? And if you can’t interact with your customers, if you can’t have a tasting room so people can experience what you make, why bother? There are a lot of synthetic places in the bar/restaurant industry. I don’t mean that in a negative way—it’s often their purpose to transport you to another part of the world or another time. but at Grandten, we don’t want you to be transported anywhere. We want you right here, with us.”
Holiday Craneberry Manhattan
- 1 oz craneberry
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 oz dry vermouth
- 4 dashes orange bitters
- 4 dashes peychaud’s bitters