Cranberry cocktail can refer to a few different things. The first is a type of juice, often referred to as cranberry juice cocktail, in which cranberry juice is mixed with other fruit juices such as grape or apple juice. This gives it a sweeter taste, as well as the sugar or high fructose corn syrup that is often added, and is a very popular blend found in grocery stores. The other definition for cranberry cocktail is when cranberry juice is mixed with alcohol, and possibly other ingredients, to create a drink. One hundred percent cranberry juice is typically used for these alcoholic beverages.
Many people want to drink cranberry juice for health benefits, but will mistakenly purchase cranberry cocktail in the grocery store. Pure cranberry juice is very healthy, but it has a very tart taste that some people don't enjoy; however, to get the real health benefits, it is necessary to purchase a bottle that is labeled "100% juice," with no sugar added. Cranberry cocktail is a juice blend, but what makes it less healthy is the frequent addition of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Grape and apple juices are the most common additions to cranberry juice, though sometimes a mixed berry blend is available that may add other berry juices.
The other type of cranberry cocktail is one that is made with a mixture of cranberry juice and alcohol. Many people simply combine cranberry juice with a single type of liquor; vodka is one of the most common, though it can also work well with gin. Some people combine it with heavier types of alcohol like tequila, rum, or whiskey, though this can be a potent taste combination that not as many people enjoy. It is easy to experiment with combinations to see what works, though.
Mixed drinks with cranberry juice are popular as well. A cosmopolitan is one of the most common types of cranberry cocktail, and is a mixture of cranberry juice, vodka, triple sec, and lime juice. Other types of martinis, as well as champagne cocktails, are popular as well. The drinks are often combined with lime juice or even grapefruit juice, as in the drink known as a sea breeze, so the tart taste of the cranberries can be enjoyed even more. A party punch made with mixed liquors and cranberry juice is a great option as well, and it can be made more festive by cutting chunks of fruit, such as pineapple or starfruit, to float in the cocktail. These are often made with soda such as ginger ale to give it a nice fizz and sweetness.