Tart and Sweet, Cranberries are a Fall Favorite in Drinks and Dishes

By: Karen Dybis | October 30, 2020

Photo Courtesy of Ackroyd's Scottish Bakery.

Cranberry has a bad rap as most people only come into contact with it once a year during a Thanksgiving dinner, starting at its canned version as it jiggles at the end of the table with no one bothering to take even a single slice.

But if they could only try some of the cranberry dishes, drinks and condiments from around Metro Detroit’s best chefs and kitchens, that likely would change everyone’s collective minds about the quality and qualities of the noble cranberry. 

Cranberry-themed drinks or foods are typically served around the fall, showing up on menus as a specialty item or something that gets served as a side dish to a turkey dinner. But many chefs and bakers say they prefer to serve cranberry more often, highlighting its sweet and savory abilities during the autumn in particular. 

For Megan Ackroyd, the third-generation owner of Ackroyd’s Scottish Bakery, the cranberry serves as a way to delivery what she loves best: A full sensory expression of what food can do when it hits the five receptors of a person’s tongue. 

The average person can detect five basic tastes on their tongue: Sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Umami is the only one the Ackroyd’s scone misses; that kind of brothy flavor really doesn’t belong in a usually sweetish baked good, she admits. But she believes the other tastes are found within the light-and-fluffy scone. 

“Our cranberry-orange scone hits four out of the five,” Ackroyd said. “It’s sweet and sour with the cranberry. There’s a bit of salt – just enough so it’s not punching you in the face. There’s a bitterness as well to the cranberry and the acid and sweetness of the orange. It’s very well balanced.”

Cranberries do deserve to also be on the Thanksgiving Day table, Ackroyd said. That cranberry sauce, especially when done well, cuts through the fattiness of the overall meal and the turkey in particular. It gives people a traditional accent to show off the rest of the flavors through the humble cranberry and what it offers. 

But the best way to enjoy a cranberry is through its sweeter side, Ackroyd said. She likes the cranberry-orange scone with some clotted cream, perhaps some fruit jam and a cup full of hot tea as the perfect way to wash it all down. 

Here are a few other ways Metro Detroit restaurants, bars and bakeries are offering cranberries for consumption this fall. 

Lunchtime Global

This beloved Detroit sandwich shop is full of creative items on the menu. One that’s worth a try is the Indie Chicken Wrap, which features a grilled chicken breast, romaine, red onion, carrots, dried cranberries and curry yogurt sauce in a whole wheat lavash.

Ready Player One

You know the beverage has to be good when Ready Player One highlights its offerings as saying it is the home of Detroit’s original Drink Pouches. These flavorful drinks include one called the Legend of Zelda that counts among its ingredients Smirnoff Vanilla, Captain Morgan and cranberries.  

Gus and Gray

This Eastern Market favorite makes all kinds of sweet and savory condiments, many of which are served in Metro Detroit’s finest restaurants and grocery stores. One that is worth checking out this autumn is the Smoked Cranberry Mustard. This whole-grain mustard is described as “smoky, tangy, tart and a little sweet,” and it is an ideal accompaniment for a chicken or turkey sandwich. 

Pit Stop

This bar inside the MotorCity Casino has lots of interesting sounding drinks on its overall menu. But one that catches the eye during the fall months is known as the Chromatics’ Cosmo. This alcoholic drink includes Ciroc Berry Vodka, Cranberry Juice and Triple Sec.

Socra Tea

If you want another idea of how to enjoy cranberries, try it in a hot tea. At Socra Tea, they offer a special brew called Cranberry Mango. It takes the tart cranberry and mixes it with the sweetness of a ripe mango. They describe the favor as “invigorating and exceptional.” Its ingredients include green teas from China and Ceylon as well as mango and cranberry pieces.