So how do you avoid this cocktail catastrophe? Make your own cherries. In our experience, brandied cherries are worth every moment it takes to pit, cook and preserve them. Now is the time, people, with cherries dangling from trees during their extremely limited season.
Celebrated Portland, Ore. bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler included two recipes for brandied cherries in his new book, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, which hit bookstore shelves early this month. “It’s important for cocktail lovers to understand what they’re working with,” says Morgenthaler. “We’ve gotten past the point where we’re all happy with any old thing out of a jar from the liquor store. Now people are tailoring drinks to their own palate.”
Morganthaler’s great book features two preserved cherry recipes. One is incredibly simple; the other is quite involved. Pick your cherry poison.
THE HARDCORE APPROACH:
Daniel Shoemaker’s Brandied Cherries recipe, provided by fellow Portland, Ore. mixologist Daniel Shoemaker, takes you through the process from start (pitting all of the cherries by hand) to finish (sealing your tasty cherries in jars). This makes controlling what goes into the finished cocktail garnish, whether it be your favorite spices or liquor, much easier. Like spice? Add more cinnamon. Prefer bourbon to brandy? You get the picture.
“At the end of the process you’ve got a true house-made brandied cherry recipe that you can tailor to your personal preference,” Morgenthaler says.
THE RELIABLE SHORT-CUT:
What if you have limited time on your hands or don’t feel like going through the headache of pitting and canning all that fruit? Put away the pitter: Morgenthaler’s notably simple Two-Step Easy Brandied Cherries recipe takes pre-cooked-and-pitted Italian cherries and simply adds—wait for it—liquor and a little liqueur. So we believe him when he says that “anyone can do it at home.”
PUT THOSE CHERRIES TO USE:
Whether you opt for the simple no-cook recipe or decide to go all in with Daniel Shoemaker’s version, you’ll want to put your cherries to the test. Morganthaler recommends using the dressed up fruit in classics like the Manhattan or his version of the amaretto sour (pictured below). You can even try them “muddled into the bottom of a glass for a Wisconsin-style Brandy Old Fashioned.”