Brandied Cherries

July 10th, 2008  |  Published in garnishes, housemade, recipes  |  19 Comments

This being my last post before Tales, I thought I’d ease you into next week with a garnish. After all, five days of nothing but booze! booze! booze! is quite a lot for your liver to handle. Best to mix some actual food in there as well…like cherries!

…With booze in them!

Just a reminder, Tales of the Cocktail begins next Wednesday. For those who can’t be there but want to play along at home, I’ll be posting here and all the cocktail bloggers in attendance will be posting updates to the Tales blog. We’ll probably be easy to spot at the event, as it sounds like everyone will be lugging a laptop in the hand that isn’t holding a drink. Fortunately, my trusty sidekick (or life partner, whatever) will be there so that we can wrangle a camera in there somewhere as well. Because photos really are worth a thousand words, especially when you spend five days drinking.

But anyway, back to the topic at hand: cherries. The original marasca or maraschino cherries, which you can still find at some specialty stores made by Luxardo and imported from Europe, were not bad for you. They were simply cherries macerated in maraschino liqueur. Then along came prohibition, and even cherries soaked in liqueur were off limits.

These days, when we are still eating the type of cherries developed to get around Prohibition, it’s a well-accepted fact that those day-glo red maraschino cherries that you can buy in a jar at any liquor store are terrible. They taste like Otter Pops and tend to be so sweet they are barely palatable. Additionally, they’re really terrible for you. They’re dyed with artificial coloring (which can cross the blood-brain barrier) and soaked in corn syrup or, worse, high fructose corn syrup. Even better, they get their unnatural red color after they’ve been soaked in lye to remove all of the original cherry color and flavor. Sounds delicious, right?

Fortunately, homemade cocktail cherries are easy to make. I’ve made many different kinds for the bar, from both fresh and frozen cherries. Fresh cherries hold up better in the cooking process, but if it’s November and you really need cocktail cherries, a bag of frozen cherries is still better than the kind from a jar. Below is the recipe from The Art of the Bar, previously posted by Robert at Explore the Pour. The original recipe called for six pounds of cherries which, at current prices, would’ve put me out of groceries for a week. Instead I cut it down to one-and-a-half pounds, which proportions you’ll find in this recipe.

1½ pounds dark, sweet cherries, pitted
scant ¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ oz fresh lemon juice
1 small cinnamon stick
¼ cup + ½ oz brandy

Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low; add the cherries and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat, remove the cinnamon stick, and stir in the brandy. Allow to cool completely before placing in a jar.

The authors of The Art of the Bar recommend not pitting the cherries to promote a more complex flavor. Since I really don’t like dealing with cherry pits while I’m drinking, I pitted my cherries, but I left some of the pits in the liquid during the cooking process to keep some of that extra flavor. Oh, and these are awesome—the best cocktail cherries I’ve ever had. They only take about ten minutes from start to finish (unless you count pitting the cherries, which takes ten more), so they’re also among the easiest cocktail cherries I’ve made at home.

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  1. sarah says:

    July 10th, 2008at 9:35 am(#)

    honey, why are you doing this to me at 10 o’clock in the morning? WHY?

    who drinks before noon?!?! i mean, i can’t even REALLY say it’s just dessert.


  2. Marleigh says:

    July 10th, 2008at 12:19 pm(#)

    9:30 on the west coast is 12:30 on the east coast. It really is noon somewhere!

    Besides, brandy is a perfectly acceptable liquor to drink in the morning. It’s made from grapes. Grapes count as breakfast.

  3. brilynn says:

    July 11th, 2008at 8:29 am(#)

    I love cherries, those are gorgeous!

  4. Dr. Bamboo says:

    July 11th, 2008at 9:30 am(#)

    “who drinks before noon?!?!”


  5. Marleigh says:

    July 11th, 2008at 12:15 pm(#)

    You and me both, C. Then again, if you start drinking at 3am and don’t stop until after noon, it doesn’t really count does it? (Just preparing my reasoning for Tales…)

  6. Tracey says:

    July 15th, 2008at 8:58 am(#)

    Cool, thanks for the recipe! This sounds like a delightful gift idea, too.

  7. Boavida says:

    July 16th, 2008at 7:39 am(#)

    Just tried it. Let’s see how it goes…

  8. rowley says:

    July 28th, 2008at 4:18 pm(#)

    Dr. Bamboo says:

    “who drinks before noon?!?!


    I’m with you, Dr. Bamboo ~ I only drink for research purposes before noon. Of course, when the topic is alcohol, there’s so, so much uncharted territory to research. I put up my enhooched sour cherries about once a year (the season’s so short), but may give these sweet ones a try. Pits in for me, though, so if you get down to San Diego, don’t guzzle wantonly. At least, not before noon.

  9. Tiare says:

    July 29th, 2008at 4:53 pm(#)

    Thanks for the recipe! i`ve been doing my cherries with Luxardo and Grenadine but now i`m going to try this recipe, i need to make a decent batch to carry me over the winter.

    I knew the artificial ones are bad but not that they can cross the blood-brain barrier..

  10. Brandied Cherries: Um pouco de culinária | Prato Cheio says:

    August 4th, 2008at 10:26 am(#)

    [...] Finalmente decidi-me a fazer as minhas próprias, seguindo as instruçoes que encontrei aqui, que foram adaptadas daqui e ainda li alguma informaçao adicional aqui e aqui, só para ter a [...]

  11. caroline says:

    December 26th, 2008at 12:38 pm(#)

    My cherries in brandy have taken all the colour and flavour into the brandy. So do I dump the cherries and call it cherry brandy ? I was hoping for cherries to serve with icecream but they look yellowy and incipid, and are a bit tough. What did i do wrong?

  12. Marleigh says:

    December 29th, 2008at 2:45 pm(#)

    Did you start with frozen cherries? If so, that could account for your issues. Also, they don’t last indefinitely so they might just be old. I think the brandy syrup itself is delightful, and I don’t see why you couldn’t boil it down to be really thick and use that on ice cream.

  13. MissMeaghan says:

    January 7th, 2009at 8:16 pm(#)

    Used this recipe for some holiday cocktails…a big hit! thanks Marleigh!

  14. Marleigh says:

    January 8th, 2009at 12:27 pm(#)

    Awesome! So glad these worked out for you. They’re so easy it seems like they shouldn’t taste as good as they do. Cheers!

  15. Ravioli with Spinach - says:

    January 10th, 2009at 9:54 am(#)

    [...] a maraschino cherry. The things have the half life of nuclear material.  If you have some nice brandied cherries, feel free to add ‘em but why get in the way of the alcohol.  Take a good pull on the drink, set [...]

  16. Aaron says:

    March 15th, 2009at 4:10 am(#)

    Cherries look gorgeous! Will try this one out. How long do you think they will keep?

  17. Marleigh says:

    March 16th, 2009at 9:30 am(#)

    Since they have both a lot of sugar and a lot of liquor in them, they should keep for a fair amount of time. I’ve never had to test that, though, because they disappear really fast!

  18. Intoxicated Zodiac Blog » Phoenix/scorpio/comida rising says:

    July 14th, 2009at 8:44 pm(#)

    [...] a great recipe for brandied cherries in the new york times. thanks to marlene from sloshed, i made these before cherries were in season and used frozen ones which worked out just [...]

  19. wrenee says:

    October 24th, 2009at 9:43 pm(#)

    God bless you. Just what I was looking for.

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