Homemade Cocktail Cherries

4.90 from 58 votes

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. 

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. (via feastandwest.com)

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Homemade Cocktail Cherries recipe

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.

(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.To my grown-up delight, cocktail cherries soaked in booze don’t have that same quality at all. They are flavorful and delicious, and oh-so-sophisticated in so many cocktails.

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. This homemade recipe is amazing and the results are always decidedly less neon, because they’re all-natural with no food coloring. Yes!

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. (via feastandwest.com)

Why you’ll love this recipe

You’ll love this homemade cocktail cherry recipe, for a few reasons:

  • They taste so much better than the neon maraschino cherries! (While cocktails definitely have a medicinal history, being served swigs of cough syrup is a memory I’d like to forget.)
  • 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.
  • You can use them in everything from Shirley Temples to old-fashioned cocktails to ice cream sundaes.
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. (via feastandwest.com)

Ingredients

Here’s what you will need to make homemade cocktail cherries:

  • brandy, rum or bourbon
  • water
  • granulated sugar or brown sugar
  • pitted cherries
  • orange zest
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Substitutions & variations

Change the spirit: You can use any spirit in homemade cocktail cherries, but brandy, bourbon and rum are the most common. Experiment to find your fave!

Add spices: You can also experiment with other spices, like fresh ginger or whole cloves, to add more flavor.

Use lemon zest: Lemon zest — or even lime zest or grapefruit zest — can add a different flavor profile to these cherries.

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. (via feastandwest.com)

Best alcohol for 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. If you want to go this route, do your research because there is some science to canning and I am no expert! I haven’t tried it, but here is a guide to preserving fruit in alcohol.

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. (via feastandwest.com)

Uses for 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 cherry syrup in baking. Drizzle it over cherry pie or cherry clafoutis.

Really, anywhere you’d use a maraschino cherry is perfect for these cocktail cherries! They’d be so good on top of a 7up® Cherry Float.

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. From old-fashioneds to manhattans, these boozy fruits beat out the neon maraschino cherries for the best cocktail garnish. (via feastandwest.com)
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. (via feastandwest.com)

More homemade cocktail ingredients

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. (via feastandwest.com)

Cocktail Cherries

Yield: 32 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Homemade cocktail cherries are just the thing your bar needs. They'll make your favorite cherry cocktails so much tastier!
4.90 from 58 votes
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ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups brandy rum or bourbon
  • ½ cup water
  • 1/2-3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups cherries pitted
  • 2 pieces orange zest about 1 x 3 inches

instructions

  • 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 servings

amount per serving:

Serving: 1cherry Calories: 45kcal Carbohydrates: 6g Protein: 0.2g Fat: 0.05g Saturated Fat: 0.01g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g Sodium: 0.3mg Potassium: 39mg Fiber: 0.4g Sugar: 5g Vitamin A: 12IU Vitamin C: 2mg Calcium: 3mg Iron: 0.1mg
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Comments

  1. John says

    5 stars
    Syrup doesn’t cover 2 pint jars. It’s about 2/3 cup short in filling the jar… I add some water and see what happens.

    • Susannah says

      Hey Cindy! I wouldn’t use frozen cherries as they would get pretty watery. While technically it would work, frozen fruit isn’t quite the same when thawed and won’t last as long even in the sugary syrup. As for type of cherries, you can really use any varietal. The most common ones in the U.S. are Bing cherries, Black cherries and Rainier cherries. They’d all be a little different in flavor.

    • Susannah says

      Hi Lori, Fresh cherries will work best. Any kind of sweet and sour cherries will work. Bing cherries and Rainier cherries are both popular ones.

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