Luscious red cherries are a glorious fruit to pair with whiskey in house-crafted cocktails. One of my favorites is the Manhattan, often garnished with a preserved cherry. I wondered how I could make my own fresher version of this bar back staple, and capitalize on the beautiful sweet cherries currently in season.
The Bing cherry flavor shines in this recipe, but is nudged into more sophisticated territory with a couple of additions. A sugar and whiskey soaking syrup draws out some of the dark red juice in the cherries, and is lightly spiced with cinnamon and vanilla. I have used rye whiskey and Armagnac in the recipe, and both were delicious.
To impart a warm spice flavor without cloudiness I used cinnamon chips, which are less decorative than cinnamon sticks, but with a clearer scent than the camera-ready sticks. (also, I love that the chips show what cinnamon is — tree bark!)
A small amount of vanilla extract rounds out the warm cinnamon spice and both flavors marry nicely with Bing cherry. After a week in the fridge, the cherries are softened, but still with good texture, and the soaking juice is pure magic in a Manhattan, Corpse Reviver #2, or Negroni. You’ll feel like you’ve got the special touch with these fresh, home crafted cocktail cherries. Enjoy!
Spiced Cocktail Cherries
(makes 3 cups)
1 pint dark red stem-on sweet cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup whiskey*
1 – 2 tsp cinnamon chips, or 2 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pit the cherries from the bottom to preserve the stem on the fruit. Place pitted, stemmed cherries in a clean glass 24 oz jar. Feel free to use a combination of smaller lidded jars if you don’t have just the right size for the amounts in this recipe.
Heat together the water and sugar and cinnamon. Let simmer for three minutes after coming to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in the whiskey and vanilla extract and pour on to the cherries. Your goal is to have minimal air space at the top of the jar. Place lid on jar and pop into the fridge.
Allow to steep for at least 3 of days before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month — perhaps longer.
Plan on making a delicious cocktail with these cherries and their syrup after making this recipe! Recipes coming up soon.
*I’ve used rye whiskey and Armagnac in this recipe — both with excellent results.