by Bourbon Belle
In Parts I and II, we discussed how to make your own fresh syrups to substitute those artificially flavored and colored store brands products like grenadine, and/or to create a syrup flavor that isn’t commercially available.
Today we’ll be discussing how to make some simple and delicious sweetened preserved cherries for garnishing cocktails, in place of those artificial, borderline florescent cherries we know of today as the “maraschino” cherry.
Maraschino cherries were originally named as such because their earliest recipes included the use of the marasca cherry, preserved in a liqueur made from this cherry, called Maraschino liqueur.
Over the years, Americans began experimenting with different types of cherries as well as with different flavors, leading eventually to the substitution of the marasca cherry with the Queen Anne cherry, (among others) and the addition of flavors like natural almond extract. Because of a 1912 USDA regulation stating that the maraschino cherry is defined as “marasca cherries preserved in maraschino liqueur” under the Food and Drugs act of 1906, these new adapted cherry recipes had to be labeled as “imitation maraschino cherries”. Over time these cherries continued to suffer further insult when Maraschino liqueur was substituted with, and then replaced altogether by, a non-alcoholic brine solution for use as a preservative. There is much dispute whether this brine substitution occurred before or during Prohibition in the United States, but regardless, the end result is the same; what was at one time a natural liquor preserved and deliciously flavored delicacy, became a bleached, brined and artificially colored excuse for a piece of fruit.
Back to basics, I say! There are many different ways to go about making sweetened preserved cherries, with the most popular being the Brandied Cherry. The following recipe is an adaptation from several different recipes I’ve researched.
4 lbs dark sweet cherries
2 cups water
1.5 cups sugar
2.5 cups “good” Brandy (something you’d actually consider sipping is a good start)
juice of 1 lemon
Wash, de-stem and pit cherries. In a large saucepan heat water, sugar, and lemon juice, stirring frequently, until boiling. Add cherries and brandy and reduce heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let cool and place in an airtight glass jar. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Other ways to preserve cherries can be even simpler! I’ve preserved cherries in Yellow Chartreuse, and even in St Germain, by simply pitting the cherries and pouring the straight booze over top, making sure the cherries are completely submerged. These cherries need to soak for a minimum of 1-2 weeks, but can last up to several months, as long as the cherries stay beneath the surface of the booze. Try using your favorite liqueur, but keep in mind, liqueurs on the sweeter side, (as long as the alcohol content is at least 25%) tend to work best.
And here’s a recipe we’re happy to sip through cherry season and beyond:
.5 oz fresh lemon
.25 fresh grenadine
Build over ice in a highball glass. Top with soda. Garnish with 2 or more brandied cherries