Last fall, my cocktail obsession slowly drifted from the summery Negroni to the Old Fashioned. Whenever there was a brandied cherry or two at the bottom of my Old Fashioned, I’d get particularly excited. If you’ve never had one, a brandied cherry is a very deep purple, almost black cherry that’s been cooked in brandy, sugar, and spices, like cinnamon and cardamom – in other words, they taste like grown up candy. In fact, sometimes I wished I didn’t have to buy and drink an entire Old Fashioned to get my beloved brandied cherries treats – I wondered, “can’t I just buy a huge jar of these somewhere and have one whenever I want?” After some investigating, I discovered that the answer is, sadly, no. Turns out that when a cocktail bar serves you drink with a brandied cherry, they are likely making their own from scratch, because the market is pretty limited: Expensive darker maraschino cherries and amerena cherries will set you back at least $20. But this initial set back didn’t discourage me! My love for brandied cherries was so strong that I felt a duty to at least attempt to make my own. A New York Times recipe promised cherries with a very short ingredients list (always a good sign).
The recipe was easy to follow and it was a delight to fill mason jars and whatever else I had lying around with the dark orbs and syrupy liquid. After about two days of waiting, I sampled my first homemade brandied cherry and was blown away by its depth of flavor (the cloves from the recipe really came through) and alcoholic sweetness. A word of warning: brandy is extremely strong and alcoholic in taste and smell. In this recipe the cooking time isn’t long enough to burn off the alcohol, so your finished product will be quite boozy. One caveat: You absolutely need to invest in a cherry pitter. It will set you back about $12, but is absolutely essential to make brandied cherries, otherwise you’ll be doing a lot of careful chewing, cutting and spitting.
Making homemade brandied cherries provided the perfect excuse to have friends over for some drinks, some of which included cocktails of my own design which utilized the soaking liquid from the cherries (YUM). A scoop of vanilla ice cream with three cherries and a tablespoon of the syrup was literally the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I also gave cherries away as gifts in mini mason jars with handwritten cocktail cards which made this easy, delicious, and generous recipe so very WORTH IT.