Homemade cocktail cherries are just the thing your bar needs. From old-fashioneds to manhattans, these boozy fruits beat out the neon maraschino cherries for the best cocktail garnish.
Maraschino cherries were never my favorite.
When I was a kid, my family would often visit the Chinese restaurant owned by our neighbors for dinner.
Our neighbor knew I loved to sip on Shirley Temples and he would always bring me one of those ruby beauties before I could order it (along with my childhood standby, sweet and sour chicken).
The sparkling 7-Up paired with sweet cherry syrup was always such a treat… until I got to the maraschino cherry at the bottom, that is.
I always promptly ordered another Shirley Temple and handed the empty glass with the cherry over to my dad.
He would always eat the cherry, then show off his ability to tie the stem into a knot with only his tongue, much to my delight. (It might sound weird, but oh, the days without cell phones, where this kind of trick could keep a kid entertained!)
Shun Lee Palace is still around, but our old neighbors sold it a while back. I haven’t been in years but when I drive by, I always wonder if they’d still make me a Shirley Temple. Am I too old? I digress.
Maraschino cherries are still my nemesis, though. The bright color is so off-putting and the taste reminds me of cough syrup.
While cocktails definitely have a medicinal history, being served swigs of cough syrup is a memory I’d like to forget.
I’ll never forget my disgust at my very first old-fashioned cocktail, with one of those disgust orbs squished into the bottom of the glass. Still grosses me out!
I learned to like fresh cherries as a teen, and they’re something I love to snack on today. I love making my own cocktail cherries from them, and even my own booze — especially Cherry Bounce, which is Martha Washington’s recipe. It’s amazing and the results are always decidedly less neon, because they’re all-natural with no food coloring. Yes!
Homemade cocktail cherries are truly easy to make. Got cherries? Got booze? Got sugar? You’re all set. Get out a saucepan and some jars, and you’re ready to roll.
What kind of alcohol is in homemade cocktail cherries?
You can use any kind of alcohol in homemade cocktail cherries. Brandy and bourbon are common, but you can even make them with vodka, rum or tequila.
Whichever type of alcohol you soak them in will yield a different effect for your cocktails, but to me, that’s the fun of being a home bartender. You do you!
Store them in an airtight container like a jar. You can even can them if you have the tools. They’ll last for about a month in the fridge once opened. If you want to go this route, check out these canning tips.
What can you make with cocktail cherries?
So much! Use it wherever you feel like you need a little fruity garnish. Manhattans and old-fashioneds are a great place to start.
You can also use the syrup in baking — these cherry marshmallows are delicious.
Really, anywhere you’d use a maraschino cherry is perfect for these cocktail cherries!
Oh, and if you want a grown-up version of my favorite Shirley Temple, this Dirty Shirley will do the trick!
Homemade cocktail cherries are just the thing your bar needs. They'll make your favorite cherry cocktails so much tastier!
- 1 1/4 cups brandy, rum or bourbon
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2-3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 cups pitted cherries
- 2 1-inch pieces orange zest
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add your alcohol, water and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, fill a 2-pint jar or two 1-pint jars with the pitted cherries and orange zest. Top with the syrup.
- Cover and store in the refrigerator and use within one month. If preferred, you can also use canning jars.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 32 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 64Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 0gSugar: 10gProtein: 0g
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