Our drink of choice the past few months has been the Manhattan. Simply, it is the melding of bourbon, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a lovely Maraschino cherry. My brother makes an excellent version – shaken, not stirred – just the way I like it. Recent visits to a couple of upscale cocktails bars, though, gave us a sample of some small batch Maraschino cherries. They tasted dramatically different than they bright red versions we’ve always had. And, with that another mission was conceived…
First, to get the fruit. Luckily, tart cherries grow locally, and I harvest some myself every year.
My husband calls this shot, “A cook walks into a tree…”
Yeah, that is me in there…I’m crawling towards the inside of the tree to grab the ripest cherries. What’s a few scratches and hair tangles when it comes to good food, right?
We took our haul home and now, for the preservation part…the cherries are steeped in alcohol. Maraschino liqueur is traditional, but folks use brandy, rum, bourbon, and other good-tasting stuff, too. I found a decently priced bottle of Maraschino liqueur from Croatia, and decided that was the way to go.
Finally, for the technique. My husband and I did a bit of research and weren’t entirely convinced on a specific method or process. Stemmed and pitted or no? Hot or cold? Additions of sugar or lemon? We elected to experiment and create two jars.
We left the cherries intact – stems, pits, the whole shebang. We simmered the alcohol for one jar, and left the other cool. We didn’t add sugar or lemon – just cherries and alcohol. Finally, one jar was just Maraschino liqueur and the other was an even mix of Knob Creek bourbon and the liqueur.
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
Makes 1 pint
1 pint tart or sour cherries (I recommend fresh, but the season is short and limited, so in a pinch go with frozen, jarred get too mushy)
1 cup alcohol (Maraschino liqueur or other lovely spirit)
pint-sized jar with sealable lid
I recommend preparing your jar and its lid by submerging in boiling water for about 10 minutes before using. Fill your prepared jars with washed cherries. You decide if you want stems and/or pits.
My pickling experiences have taught me that using cold materials will leave your end product crisper. If you want a crisper biting cherry, leave your alcohol and fruit cold or room temperature. Just put the cherries in the jar and pour the spirits over them. Seal and refrigerate.
If you want to rush the maceration, bring liqueur to a simmer in a saucepan on stovetop. Pour over cherries, let mixture cool, and seal jar.
Store jar in refrigerator. Wait at least two days before using.
Makes 1 drink
2 oz bourbon
just shy 1 oz sweet vermouth
couple dashes bitters (I like Angostura, Mr. Cook in a Bar likes Fee’s Orange)
Add all liquid to ice-filled shaker. Strain or serve on the rocks. Garnish with cherry.
Here’s a comparison between the homemade (bookends) and store-bought versions of Maraschino cherries…