Great minds think alike. I infuse my cherries with bourbon and vanilla (recipe in my cookbook), while my friend Jayme of Holly and Flora turns hers into a lovely liqueur that can be used in everything from cocktails (can’t wait to try this smash!) to savory courses. It takes a few minutes to make and a bit of a wait before you’re rewarded with an incredible gift for all of your friends. Can’t wait to join you, Jayme, with a bowl of that chocolate (coconut milk, for me) ice cream drizzled with the cherry liqueur. Forever, yes.
I currently have six different infusions sitting on my kitchen counter: grilled peaches in bourbon, strawberries in vodka, and fennel bulbs in gin, to name a few. I find myself purchasing pints and flats of everything seasonal and fresh from the farmers’ market, just so I can find some way to preserve them all. We’ve all got our crazy tendencies, and this is one of mine. I’ve been buying up summer cherries by the pound and eating them by the handful.
There is something so magical about enjoying fruit, when it is at its prime. This window of time is fleeting, so I find as many means as I can to preserve and extend summer’s deliciousness. One of my favorite ways to capture the seasonal sweetness of summer cherries is making cherry liqueur. It’s a simple process, and you can use either fresh cherries or ones you’ve previously frozen. I even like to incorporate a small handful of the pits to add an almond-like note to the liqueur.
Cherry liqueur makes the perfect gift for any cocktail aficionado. It’s a decadent addition to a Manhattan, works great with clear spirits, like vodka or rum, and makes for a tasty riff on a Kir Royale. Beyond the cocktail realm, it’s also delicious served over chocolate ice cream, added to a cherry pie, drizzled over duck breast, or simply tossed into a glass of sparkling water. Speaking of those ideas, I should get after that chocolate ice cream situation.
FOR THE CHERRY LIQUEUR
Makes: 5 cups
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Ingredients:FOR THE CHERRY LIQUEUR
- 1 1/2 pounds cherries, pitted (about 6 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 cups brandy
- 1 cup vodka
- 8 to 10 allspice berries, gently cracked
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- 1/8 cup cherry pits (optional)
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1/2 ounce Amaro Nonino or other amaro of choice
- 1/2 ounce agave nectar
- 1/2 ounce cherry liqueur
- 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup ice
- Seasonal herb of choice, for garnish
Directions:MAKE THE CHERRY LIQUEUR
- Wash cherries and remove pits, reserving about 1/8 cup of the pits. The easiest way to remove the pits? Take an empty wine bottle and place a cherry on top. Using a chopstick, push through, and the pits will fall into the bottle.
- Place pitted cherries in a clean, gallon-sized glass jar.
- Using a wooden spoon or muddler, crush the cherries, releasing their juices.
- Add the sugar, brandy, vodka, allspice berries, cinnamon stick, star anise pod, and, optionally, the cherry pits.
- Stir well to incorporate and store in a cool, dark place for at least one month and up to three months, stirring the contents, whenever you think of it. You’ll be rewarded with a complex, rich liqueur, if you let the liqueur to age the full three months.
- After the cherry liqueur has finished infusing and aging, strain the mixture through a chinois or cheesecloth and divide evenly into clean glass jars. I used small 8-ounce glass bottles and secured them with corks.
- In a mixing tin, combine the bourbon, amaro, agave nectar, cherry liqueur, lemon juice, and ice.
- Fill a chilled rocks glass with fresh ice.
- Shake well and strain into the prepared glass.
- Garnish with a freshly picked herb. I went with fennel fronds, since they are blooming, but sage or thyme would work well here, too.
- 5 8-ounce glass bottles, swing-top or cork-sealed
- Hemp string
- Circular tag
- Transfer the cherry liqueur to a clean, glass bottle. Of course, you can opt for larger bottles, if you’d like. Wipe the rim and seal.
- Write the label or the recipe for the Cherry Bourbon Smash on the tag.
- Cut a length of string and wrap it around the bottle a few times.
- Tie a knot and thread the tag onto the string, securing with another knot to hold the tag in place.
- Trim any excess string.
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