• Sour Boozy Cocktail Cherries {Recipe}

    by  • July 5, 2011 • Drink, Local Food, Preserving, Recipes • 15 Comments

    canned cocktail cherriesI love a good cocktail but I despise maraschino cherries. The rubbery red-flavored spheres resemble the natural fruit in name alone.

    I decided to tackle creating cocktail cherries at home when faced with an extra quart of fresh local sour cherries after making sour cherry preserves.

    While searching for a recipe, I discovered a bit of history. Apparently cocktail cherries used to be pitted cherries soaked in maraschino liqueur, hence the name.

    During prohibition, one of America’s cultural mistakes, cocktail cherries had to be remade without the alcohol. The sickeningly sweet, artificial maraschino cherry was born.

    Most recipes for DIY cocktail cherries either fall in the camp of the traditional (soak in maraschino liqueur) or modern (can in sweet, flavored syrup).

    All recipes recommended pitting the cherries but I came across a suggestion that the pits themselves could make a liqueur.

    I combined all these ideas into my sour boozy cocktail cherries. They are boiled in vanilla syrup and canned with pits and bourbon. The result is a flavorful hybrid with balanced sweetness that begs to be made into an old fashioned.

    My hope is that the pits will age and flavor the syrup so that when the cherries are gone, the syrup will be an enticing liqueur of its own.


    Sour Boozy Cocktail Cherries

    makes 4 half pints

    1 1/2 cups demara sugar

    1 cup water

    4 allspice berries, crushed

    1 vanilla pod, sliced open

    4 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted with pits reserved (approximately 1 quart)

    2 cups bourbon (we like Bulleit)

    1. Mix sugar, water, allspice, and vanilla in a heavy bottomed pan. Heat over medium high until boiling.

    2. Add the sour cherries and pits. Boil for 5 minutes.

    3. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Pour in bourbon.

    4. Ladle cherries into sterilized jars. Cover with some of the steeping liquid and pits to quarter inch head space.

    5. Top with a new lid and finger tighten a ring. At this point, cherries may be stored in the fridge for up to one month. If you desire to preserve them longer, can using the following directions.

    6. Boil in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to a level surface and allow to cool completely. Remove rings and wipe off jars.

    7. If excess syrup remains, strain and use for cocktails or dessert topping. Store in refrigerator.



    Added to Hearth and Soul 55.

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. I often wear purple and never refuse a drink.


    15 Responses to Sour Boozy Cocktail Cherries {Recipe}

    1. July 5, 2011 at 4:22 pm

      I made maraschino cherries today using a spiced syrup and maraschino liqueur. I’ve been reading this article
      http://chanticleersociety.org/wikis/homemade/maraschino-cherries.aspx and thinking of doing it slightly differently this year. I was wondering whether it would work to roast the cherries first to get a more intense flavor.

    2. Sue
      July 10, 2011 at 11:28 am

      Can I use frozen cherries?

      • July 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

        Sue, I think frozen cherries would lose their texture too much to be useable for cocktail cherries. You could make them into jam and add a little bourbon for that flavor if you wish.

    3. Ann
      July 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      You will super duper taste the pits if you let the jars sit till the winter. When I make cherry infused vodka, I’m pitting now, because the predominant taste with-pits is the almond flavor. But pits-in cherries canned are my favorite winter treat…

      • July 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

        I’m thinking I will decant the liquid from the pits in a month or so. Thanks for the heads up that the bitter almond flavor will intensify.

    4. July 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

      I love learning about the history of food items. Thanks for sharing the background as well as your recipe with the Hearth and Soul Hop.

    5. Mabry
      July 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm

      Just made these, and they are delightful. But, when I took the jars out of the water bath, some of them leaked some liquid for a minute until they cooled a bit. Are they still going to be ok in the pantry for a while? Should I reprocess them? Thanks for the idea and recipe!

      • July 13, 2011 at 11:22 pm

        Mabry, did the jars pop and seal? If so, after 24 hours cooling, remove the rings and wipe down the outside. Test for seal by picking up the jar by gripping on the lid. If it holds securely, they will be fine for storage at room temperature.

    6. Mabry
      July 14, 2011 at 12:45 am

      Yes, they did. Thanks for your help. Can’t wait to enjoy these!

    7. October 17, 2011 at 8:55 am

      I appreciate, cause I discovered exactly what I was taking a look for. You’ve ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

    8. Kat
      June 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      Hi Rachel,

      I just made these from freshly picked tart cherries, and although it all came out very, very tasty, my cherries got a bit mushy after the 5 min boil (I actually reduced it to 4 to stop them from totally disintegrating). I canned them so I suspect the hot water bath may have done even more ‘damage’.
      Any ideas on how to prevent this? Less ripe cherries? Can I reduce the first boil if I can them?


      • June 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm

        Hmmm….I’ve read about soaking in an alum solution to help preserve the texture. Perhaps there can be a difference when the water content is different?

        This recipe is a hot-pack recipe, which means that the fruit needs to be hot (nearly at a boil) when put into the canning jar. You could reduce the time a bit but make sure the fruit is thoroughly heated.

        At the very least you’ll have some yummy cherry suryp canned…

    9. Carrie
      June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      Just finished making a batch of these. Can’t wait to see how they are in a summer cocktail later.

    10. SugarSnapMama
      July 31, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Well now! THIS takes canning to a whole new level! Thanks for sharing. SO tryin’ this!

    11. Not Sure
      July 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      So what do you do with the leftover syrup? I’m thinking some of that with soda, perhaps.

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