Cocktail (Ingredient) of the Week: Mrs Beeton’s Whiskey Cordial, American-style

Cocktail (Ingredient) of the Week: Mrs Beeton’s Whiskey Cordial, American-style

Conjure up a tangy cordial to cheer cold nights ahead
Beatrix Swanson

10 December 2021

American Thanksgiving has been and gone, but cranberries are still available in fresh and frozen forms.

Famed Victorian homemaker Isabella Beeton may not have had these wintery-bright globes of tartness in mind when she created her whisky cordial recipe with summery whitecurrants (‘Make this in July,’ she commands), but cranberries work excellently for this. Indeed, the inclusion of ginger and lemon makes it a rather more cold weather-feeling treat, while the magenta colour is utterly cheering.

The recipe below is adapted from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861), with metric measurements added to her imperial imperial ones. Making half a recipe, or indeed a quarter (as I did), in order to preserve your pristine aqua vitae, is probably wise.

Use the cordial in festive pre-dinner cocktails over the coming weeks and months, or mix a bit with sparkling water for a surprisingly refreshing, near-virgin offering.

Title page

Whiskey Cordial


1 lb or c. 450 g cranberries (fresh or frozen)
The rind of 2 small lemons
1/4 oz or c. 10 g grated ginger
1 quart or 0.9 litre whisk(e)y
1 lb or c. 450 g sugar


Smash the (defrosted) cranberries and put them into a jug. Add the lemon rind, ginger, and whiskey. Cover the jug closely, and let it remain covered for 24 hours. Strain through a fine sieve, add the sugar, and let it stand 12 hours longer. Then bottle and cork well, and keep in the fridge.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

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