Every cocktail lover has been there: the Manhattan is mixed and ready to drink, save for one crucial ingredient: the cherry. The fluorescent maraschino cherry has no place in this classic drink.
So how do you avoid this cocktail catastrophe? Make your own cherries. In our experience, brandied cherries are worth every moment it takes to pit, cook and preserve them. Now is the time, people, with cherries dangling from trees during their extremely limited season.
Celebrated Portland, Ore. bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler included two recipes for brandied cherries in his new book, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, which hit bookstore shelves early this month. “It’s important for cocktail lovers to understand what they’re working with,” says Morgenthaler. “We’ve gotten past the point where we’re all happy with any old thing out of a jar from the liquor store. Now people are tailoring drinks to their own palate.”
Morganthaler’s great book features two preserved cherry recipes. One is incredibly simple; the other is quite involved. Pick your cherry poison.
THE HARDCORE APPROACH:
Daniel Shoemaker’s Brandied Cherries recipe, provided by fellow Portland, Ore. mixologist Daniel Shoemaker, takes you through the process from start (pitting all of the cherries by hand) to finish (sealing your tasty cherries in jars). This makes controlling what goes into the finished cocktail garnish, whether it be your favorite spices or liquor, much easier. Like spice? Add more cinnamon. Prefer bourbon to brandy? You get the picture.
“At the end of the process you’ve got a true house-made brandied cherry recipe that you can tailor to your personal preference,” Morgenthaler says.
THE RELIABLE SHORT-CUT:
What if you have limited time on your hands or don’t feel like going through the headache of pitting and canning all that fruit? Put away the pitter: Morgenthaler’s notably simple Two-Step Easy Brandied Cherries recipe takes pre-cooked-and-pitted Italian cherries and simply adds—wait for it—liquor and a little liqueur. So we believe him when he says that “anyone can do it at home.”
PUT THOSE CHERRIES TO USE:
Whether you opt for the simple no-cook recipe or decide to go all in with Daniel Shoemaker’s version, you’ll want to put your cherries to the test. Morganthaler recommends using the dressed up fruit in classics like the Manhattan or his version of the amaretto sour (pictured below). You can even try them “muddled into the bottom of a glass for a Wisconsin-style Brandy Old Fashioned.”
Ready to make your own? Get the recipes for Daniel Shoemaker’s Brandied Cherries and Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Two-Step Easy Brandied Cherries now.
This story was originally published at Liquor.com. For more stories like this join Liquor.com and drink better. Plus, for a limited time get How to Cocktail in 2014, a cocktail recipe book — free!
- 5 lbs ripe, firm sweet cherries
- 1/2 cup juniper berries, whole
- 1/2 cup allspice berries, whole
- 6 cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
- 3 star anise pods
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed, strained
- 3 cups water
- 2 1/2 cups brandy
- 1 1/2 cups white rum
- 1 cup bourbon
First, clear away anything from your work space that you don't want to get spattered with cherry juice. It sprays and it stains, even when you're careful, so wear clothes you don't mind staining.
Pull off the stems and punch out the pits of the cherries with a cherry pitter.
Add the juniper berries, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks and star anise to the center of a double layer of cheesecloth and tie into a secure bundle.
Combine the sugar, the lemon juice and the 3 cups of water in another large stockpot that holds at least 10 quarts. Bring to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the spice bundle and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the cherries. Using the slotted spoon, stir the cherries until they are all soaked in the syrup and are thoroughly warmed. (You don't want to actually cook the cherries, just allow them to absorb the syrup.)
Return the liquid and cherries to a simmer and pour in the brandy, rum and bourbon, stirring to combine. When the liquid is warmed through, remove the pot from the heat. (Be sure not to boil the liquid because you don't want to cook off too much alcohol.)
Using a wide-mouth funnel or jar filler and a slotted spoon, pack each canning jar with cherries, filling it to the top. Give the jar a good tap on the counter to settle the fruit so there are minimal air gaps. Ladle the hot syrup into the jars up to about half an inch from the rim. Place the flat part of the lid on the jar, and screw the band on lightly.
Run the jars through a hot water bath. Allow them to cool and let the seals form properly. You'll hear a nice pop as the vacuum forms and the lid is sucked down. Tighten the rings of all the jars that have sealed properly.
Makes 4 cups, enough to fill 4 1/2-pint jars (pictured here)
1 pound cherries (fresh or frozen, but fresh is better no need to thaw frozen)
1 cup of granulated sugar
Heatproof, airtight quart-sized container
Wash, stem, and pit cherries, and divide them among the 4 1/2-pint jars.
Add the water, sugar, and spices to a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and add the brandy to the saucepan and stir to combine. Discard the cinnamon stick, and pour the brandy mixture evenly over the cherries in the jars. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Let cool to room temperature, then seal the gift jars and refrigerate. Cherries will keep for up to 1 month, refrigerated.
Amount Per Serving Calories 78 Calories from Fat 1 % Daily Value * Total Fat 0.1g 1 % Saturated Fat 0.0g 0 % Cholesterol 0.0mg 0 % Sodium 0.4mg 1 % Total Carbohydrate 15g 5 % Dietary Fiber 1g 4 % Protein 0.4g 1 %
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Spiced Brandied Cherries
Summer is the season for fresh cherries and making brandied cherries allows you to enjoy their sweet taste year-round. This is an excellent way to preserve the fresh fruit while creating a boozy little treat. Brandied cherries are excellent as ice cream and dessert toppings, or you can skewer them for a cocktail garnish. As an extra bonus, you can add a splash of the spiced brandy syrup to Manhattans, metropolitans, and other cocktails.
Pitting the cherries is the most time-consuming part of this brandied cherry recipe, but it's all rather easy. Once the cherries are prepared, you'll make a spiced syrup, add brandy, then let the cherries steep until everything cools down. There are even storage options: Can the cherries if you prefer or just stick the jar in the fridge.
There are many ways to vary the flavor of brandied cherries. You can include just a few of the recipe's spices or add others in any combination you like. During the peak of cherry season, make up a few variations in separate jars, label each with your custom recipe, then enjoy discovering which combinations you like most.
- 2 cups canned tart cherries, drained
- ¼ cup brandy
- ⅔ cup white sugar, divided
- cooking spray (such as Pam®)
- 1 cup milk
- ⅔ cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon confectioners' sugar, or as needed
Mix cherries, brandy, and 1/3 cup white sugar in a bowl let soak for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Spray a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
Remove cherries from brandy mixture using a slotted spoon and transfer to the prepared pie pan. Pour brandy mixture into a blender add remaining 1/3 cup sugar, milk, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and allspice to the blender. Pulse mixture until batter is smooth pour over cherries.
Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and continue baking until golden and puffy, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly and dust with confectioners' sugar to serve.
How to Make Brandied Cherries
Original recipe by Cocktails & Bars
- ½ cup white granular sugar or raw sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 2 whole allspice
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon of almond extract
- 10-15 ml cherry juice*
- 250 ml brandy, dark rum or bourbon (we used dark rum)
- 500 g fresh cherries, pitted and de-stemmed
Equipment: cherry pitter, small saucepan, fine strainer, muddler, canning jar, glass jar with tight fitting lid
- Using a cherry pitter, pit the cherries and remove the stems.
- In a small saucepan add sugar, water and spices and bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove from the heat, leave to cool then add the spirit of choice.
- To make the cherry juice, in a small bowl or cocktail shaker muddle 8 pitted cherries to release as much of the juice as possible. Strain using a fine strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Add the cherry juice to the syrup and spirit and mix to combine.
- Add the cherries to the liquid and once it has cooled down completely, transfer to a canning jar and store in the fridge.
- Taste as you go to check when they’re ready to your liking. The brandied cherries are ready to use in approximately 4 weeks and keep well in the fridge.
Brandied cherries can be used in cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Whisky Sour and Manhattan.
I haven't yet made this, but it looks good and I wanted to comment upon some of the reservations expressed about how safe this is. I've canned a lot of jams, fruit and preserves, and this isn't to different. The sugar acts as a preservative, just as with jam or peaches put up in syrup. Get your jars really hot, pour the syrup over and the jar lids will seal.
Good, yes. Very European, as the 1st couple of reviewers stated. Now with regards to proper preservation, I think some reviewers are very inexperienced. Acidic foods preserved with alcohol usually last 4- 5 months without any bacterial growth if stored in a cool dark place.
I have just prepared this recipe and am wondering if it needs to be vacuum sealed. Hate to wait four months and find I made a mistake.
I have some reservations about this recipe as written. I started it not knowing a thing about canning. Mid way thru I consulted with a knowlegeable friend who believed it was safer using standard techniques for food preservation which involved quite a bit more than the recipe indicated. What are the thoughts of others regarding technique.
It is Cherry Picking season again. We have a large Stella tree and I canned some last year - July/02. I just opened a jar from last year and made Cherries Jubilee. It is better than any I have tasted and we have tried this recipe for many years. Out I go to get some from the tree to make many batches this year.
When I visited Alsace last year, I fell in love with several desserts that included cherries in Kirsch. Then when I found sour cherries at the farmer's market, I had to try to replicate them. The recipe doesn't say to, but I pitted the cherries first, and made them with Kirsch instead of regular brandy. A jar of these make a wonderful hostess gift or small Christmas present. The Black Forest cake I made for New Year's eve was wonderful, and may become a new tradition. Or serve over ice cream, either vanilla or chocolate. Yum!
Branied cherries are extremely popular in Germany, where I come from. They will "brandy" just about any fruit, but cherries are a favorite. This is a great recipe. I use them in Schwarzwaelderkirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake). It's the classic south German/Swiss method for preparing the cake. These will last FOREVER to. Just put them in the pantry and forget about them until needed. The brandy preserves them and the older they get, the better they get
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