Drunken Cranberry Sauce

Sweet and spicy, Drunken Cranberry Sauce pairs perfectly with a traditional holiday dishes like turkey, gravy and stuffing. Ready within 15 minutes, this lightning fast spiced cranberry sauce side dish adds sweetness to a meal. Makes 6-8 servings.

Love easy holiday side dishes? Don’t miss Vegan Green Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts, Roasted Lemon Brussels Sprouts and Honey Roasted Carrots!

Cranberry sauce in a silver bowl with leafs on the ends next to a silver platter of turkey

This dish sounds a lot boozier than it actually is.

The cranberries aren’t really drunk; they’re just jazzed up by a little spiced rum.

Because rum jazzes us all up sometimes, right? Right.

If you’re looking for a classic, booze-free recipe, try Fresh Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Chutney.

Why I love this recipe:

This recipe for Orange Cranberry Sauce with Spiced Rum is fast.

When it was initially made, it was conceived and executed in about 10 minutes before we sat down for Friendsgiving dinner… and it was utterly perfect.

I’d purchased cranberries, knowing I wanted to make a simple cranberry sauce for the meal with them.

I completely forgot about them until everyone was at our home, and we were carving the turkey.

There’s something so sweet and lovely about a simple side, and this cranberry sauce is that to a tee.

This spiced cranberry sauce is sweet, simple and pretty darn tasty. It calls for just four ingredients, and it highlights orange juice, which pairs beautifully with the tart cranberries.

Other holiday recipes that involve cranberries: Cranberry Turkey Puff Pastry Tartlets | Cranberry Feta Brussels Sprout Salad with Candied Pecans and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette | Puff Pastry Baked Brie with Cranberry Chutney

Need holiday food inspiration? Be sure to swing by my Thanksgiving Recipe Index for tons of recipes!

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    What you need to make this recipe:

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    Let’s talk ingredients!

    In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • Cranberries—you may use fresh or frozen cranberries for this recipe
    • Spiced rum—your favorite brand works! I like to use spiced rum because it adds a little kick and some aromatics to the orange cranberry sauce. You can also use homemade spiced rum!
    • Orange juice—freshly squeezed, if possible, but the bottled stuff works, too
    • Brown sugar—my recipe says to use dark brown sugar, but light brown sugar works, as well.

    If you want more orange punch to this recipe, add some orange zest or orange peel to the cranberries as they cook!

    How to make Drunken Cranberry Sauce with Orange

    Combine the cranberries with the rum, orange juice and brown sugar in a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat.

    Cook until the cranberries have popped (watch out! they’ll be hot!) and the sauce begins thickening.

    This takes around 10 minutes, depending on how hot your stove gets and how evenly your pan cooks.

    When the sauce has thickened, remove from the saucepan, and transfer to a serving bowl.

    Serve warm or cold at the holiday table!

    Close up of chilled spiced cranberry sauce in a silver serving bowl with maple leafs on the corners

    Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips and Tricks

    There’s not much more quentessential than homemade cranberry sauce at the holiday table, and I love this recipe for entertaining.

    Why? It’s so simple!

    Here are a few tips and tricks for making this cranberry sauce recipe for a crowd:

    • Make it in advance. This recipe for Cranberry Sauce can be served warm or cold, and it keeps well in the fridge. Cook it 1-2 days before your gathering, and keep it cool in the refrigerator until it’s serving time.
    • Double the recipe. If your people love cranberry sauce, you’ll definitely want to do this! This recipe never lasts long with my family because we adore the combination of sweet and tart.
    A collage of two images showing a silver bowl holding the sauce and a person using a spoon to scoop it onto a plate

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What spice goes well with cranberries?

    Warming spices, like cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg, pair beautifully with cranberries. Consequently, you can get hints of these spices in this cranberry sauce from the spiced rum.

    How do you thicken homemade cranberry sauce?

    This whole berry cranberry sauce recipe thickens because of the combination of cranberry juices paired with the sugar. We want the cranberries to burst as they cook and release those juices and mingle with the sugar… and then cook off a little so the sauce gets sticky. 🙂

    How long will homemade cranberry sauce keep?

    When stored in a food-safe storage container in the refrigerator, this spiced cranberry sauce can last for 5-7 days.

    An overhead of a glass bowl of Spiced Cranberry Sauce on a buffalo check towel with a spoon next to cornbread

    Quick tips and tricks to the best cranberry sauce recipe

    • Make it early. Since this recipe keeps in the fridge, make holiday entertaining as easy as possible on yourself by making it when you’ve got time well before the festivities.
    • Add more orange! Orange zest and peel add awesome orange flavor to the cranberries.
    • How to store: Store in an airtight food storage container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

    What else can I serve alongside this recipe?

    Here are a few of our favorite holiday dishes…

    Interested in making this super simple, super flavorful cranberry sauce at home this holiday season?

    Scroll on down to learn how you can make it at home!

    Close up of a bowl of Drunken Cranberry Sauce, shown with fresh cranberries and a serving spoon
    Yield: 8 servings

    Drunken Cranberry Sauce

    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 10 minutes
    Total Time: 15 minutes

    Sweet and spicy, Drunken Cranberry Sauce pairs perfectly with a traditional holiday dinner of turkey, gravy and stuffing. Ready within 15 minutes, this lightning fast side dish adds sweetness to a meal. Fresh cranberries cook with spiced rum, orange juice and brown sugar to make this delightful recipe. Drunken Cranberry Sauce is what you'll want to serve at the Thanksgiving, Christmas and holiday party tables!


    • 12 oz. fresh cranberries, whole
    • 1 oz. spiced rum
    • ½ cup orange juice
    • 1 cup brown sugar (dark brown or light brown OK)


    1. In a saucepan, combine the cranberries with the orange juice and brown sugar.
    2. Heat over medium heat, and cook, for about 10 minutes, or until cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened.
    3. Pour in the rum, and stir, cooking until it has evaporated. This should take 2-3 minutes, depending on how hot the sauce is.
    4. Serve warm or cold as a side dish at the holiday table.


    In recent years, I've used ¾ cup of brown sugar instead of a full cup, and I really like how the cranberries are a bit more tart. If you're concerned that this recipe might be too sweet for you, try ¾ cup instead of the full cup!

    How to Store: When the cranberry sauce has finished cooking, transfer to a serving dish, and let cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator up to 4 days before you're planning to serve it. When it's time to serve, simply unwrap it and transfer to the table!

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    Nutrition Information:



    Serving Size:


    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 121Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 2gSugar: 25gProtein: 0g

    Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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    This recipe was originally published on November 13, 2013. The blog post was updated and republished in November 2020.

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    1. I have to admit that while I love cranberry sauce (more like the gel that comes from a can, let’s be honest), I have yet to make it myself. It just seems intimidating. Thanks for this recipe, which looks simple and delicious. And the rum can’t hurt. 🙂

      1. Girl, I hadn’t made cranberry sauce until two years ago, so I feel you on the nerves and being intimidated by it. (My grandmother’s homemade cranberry salad is the actual BEST, and making it under the guidance of my mom made it a little less scary.) If you give making your own a try, I’d love to know what you think of this… and you’re right, the rum does NOT hurt. 😉

    2. This looks yummy. My homemade cranberry sauce is probably what I’m most “known for.” It’s the one and only thing I make that I swear could go head to head with a professional chef. Funny enough your recipe, which really does look delish, is somewhat similar to mine.

      1. I love that you’re known for your cranberry sauce and that you’d go head-to-head with a professional chef with your recipe. I’m curious what yours calls for and how you make it now!

      1. Pssh. Everybody does their own thing, and I know so many people who eat their sauce out of the can. But IF you do try out this recipe, let me know what you think!

    3. I love this recipe! I was searching for a little something different to do with cranberries this year and you had me at drunken 😉 I’m definitely going to try this!

      1. Hey Eleanor. I’ve never stored these in sterilized jars before, so I can’t say for sure what time this would work for, long-term. I would look up canning information for similar fruit-based sauces/jams and see how long those last. (And if you’re looking for short-term, we kept some in our fridge for a few days afterward!)

      1. Hey Emily! I extensively test all the recipes that I share here at The Speckled Palate. The recipe will work if you substitute granulated sugar or light brown sugar, but I like the robustness that the dark brown sugar to them the best. This is a recipe we make yearly, and we think it’s absolutely delicious.

    4. I made this for Thanksgiving, and it was a real hit. Maybe because I did exactly what the receipt called for except I put in SIX tablespoons of Gosling’s Black Seal 80 Proof Bermuda Black Rum!! We ran out of this cranberry sauce, so next year I’ll make a double recipe.

      1. I am SO thrilled to hear this, Susan! And I love that you added a bit more of the rum because it’s DELICIOUS. I’m gonna have to try that brand next time I’m looking for some rum and love to hear that this was such a hit! Well done!

    5. I just made this for our Thanksgiving tomorrow. I substituted Splenda Blend Brown sugar to save a few calories and it tastes great. 15 minutes and I was done, I used to make a very similar relish but it took almost 2 hours !! Thanks !

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