The Thanksgiving Margarita

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In our search for new ways to shake up Thanksgiving traditions, we turned to the mixologists at New York's The Red Cat restaurant for advice. Bartender Trace Conway, known for seasonal variations on the classic margarita, had good news. After numerous attempts, she'd created a cranberry-based drink that didn't taste like juice or put the drinker on the floor. "I was trying to think of how to add a cranberry flavor without being too tart and still add the sweetness and get a nice flavor out of it," she explained. Her solution? Cranberry jam.

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"I have chef make me a jam with some orange peel and some other stuff in it and shake it right into it," Conway says. "Jams tend to add a little texture and body to the drink that people like, and it lets you sneak in a bunch of extra flavors without having to add another liquid."

According to Conway, store-bought jam works fine in a pinch, but she recommends trying to use something a bit more tart. Here's how to get cranberry sauced just right.

Cranberry Margarita
(Yields 4 cocktails)


  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 lime wedge, plus 2 oz fresh juice
  • 4 oz fresh orange juice
  • 6 oz tequila 

Mix the salt, sugar, and five-spice powder thoroughly on a saucer or small plate. Rub rims of Old-Fashioned glasses with lime wedge, then dip in spice mixture to coat rim; fill glasses with ice. For each cocktail, combine 1/2 oz lime juice, 1 oz orange juice, 1 1/2 oz tequila, and 2 tbsp cranberry jam in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Cover and shake until outside is frosty, about 30 seconds. Then strain into prepared glass and serve. Repeat for each cocktail. 

Cranberry Jam


  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries (or thawed frozen cranberries)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice

Bring cranberries, sugar, orange juice, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened to the consistency of jam, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Mix in orange zest and let cool. (Jam can be made up to five days in advance, but keep it covered and refrigerated.)

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