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.