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.