Whet Your Whistle: Bourbon-Soaked Cherries and Mama’s Old Fashioned

Hello. I love you.

Hello. I love you.

I love whisky. And I love cherries. So when I recently had my first bourbon-soaked cherry at my favorite up-scale watering hole, Black Pearl in Denver, I thought I had died and gone to Hipster-Lush Heaven. I adore a good Old Fashioned, seriously, nothing tickles my fancy quite like it, and with the boozy cherries added in, it’s dreamlike. After ordering two more (with extra cherries), I made my way home to Google, “bourbon-soaked cherries where to buy.” Turns out, you can’t buy them. So I Googled, “bourbon-soaked cherries how to make,” and found endless sites with recipes for these little gems.

A few days later, Christmas Eve as it turns out, I decided to give these a whirl, since I happened to have the cherries (only seven dollars a pound at Whole Paycheck!) and obvs had the whisky. Clay helped me pit the cherries using this weird little device from the espresso machine that sucked the pit right out of the flesh. I don’t even know what this device is called or its original intended use, but you can easily pit a cherry with a small pearing knife, or what-the-hell, get creative and find some random household item to help you with the process.

photo (3)

See. Weird little device, worked like a charm.

Cherries are SO affordable in December.

Pitted cherries.

After pitting the cherries, you make a simple syrup from scratch (or if you’re like me, you just have this sort of thing at your disposal most all of the time). Then, as with any canning or preserving, you have to sanitize the jars and lids, which is honestly the most time-consuming part of the process. Once that’s done, you add the fruit, simple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and your bourbon of choice (I like Breckenridge or Maker’s Mark) to the jars. Seal, boil again, and voila. Bourbon-Soaked Cherries.

Boiling after assembly to ensure proper sealing.

Boiling after assembly to ensure proper sealing.

Bourbon-Soaked Cherries

(adapted from Gastronomical Sovereignty, makes two large jars or four small)

  • 4 cups fresh cherries, pitted, washed and dried
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 lemon for juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-8 oz bourbon

1. Place the water and sugar in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.


2. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Remove from the heat. (This is your simple syrup.)


3. As you dissolve the sugar, you will need to sterilize your jars, lids and rings. You can do this in a water bath canner if you have one, or just a very large soup pot if you don’t (I used a very large soup pot and it took a long time because there was only room for one jar at a time.) Fill the pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Using a pair of tongs with rubber ends (so as not to drop the jar), carefully place the jars, lids and rings in the water in batches so they fit comfortably with one to two inches of water above the jars. Boil for ~15 minutes. Carefully lift jars, lids and rings out of the water and set aside on a clean, dry surface.


4. Using very clean hands, place the cherries in the jars with 3/4 inch of head space left over. Pour the simple syrup over the cherries (still leaving that 3/4 inch of space at the top and spoon 1 to 2 oz of bourbon over the entire mixture). (I did a shot glass and a half.) This should leave you with 1/2 inch of head space.


5. Secure rims and lids on the jars (make sure they are very tight!) and place back in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Carefully remove from water and allow to set. Once cool, check to make sure the rings have in fact sealed and refrigerate any that don’t.

As long as the lids seal properly (if the lid doesn’t click in, it hasn’t sealed), these will keep in the pantry for at least a year. Once opened, they’ll last a month or so in the fridge. (But seriously, who has the self-control to make them last that long?) Bourbon-Soaked Cherries are versatile – mash them into your favorite cocktail, scoop them on a bowl of ice cream with hot fudge, add them to your greek yogurt with a scoop of hazelnuts, garnish your favorite sweet bread with them, or just eat them out of the jar every time you walk past your refrigerator. My favorite way to enjoy them is mashed into an Old Fashioned. In the bathtub.
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See, I really do booze in the bathtub. I didn’t make that part up.

Mama’s Old Fashioned

(serves one)

  • 1 shot bourbon (I like Breckenridge or Maker’s)
  • 1 shot juice from Bourbon-Soaked Cherries
  • 3 Bourbon-Soaked Cherries
  • one slice orange or satsuma
  • 3 splashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • one large ice cube

1. Mash fruit and bitters in bottom of high-ball glass.

2. Add juice, bourbon and ice cube to glass. Swirl around in glass for 45 seconds. Drink. Repeat.


2 thoughts on “Whet Your Whistle: Bourbon-Soaked Cherries and Mama’s Old Fashioned

  1. Hello!

    I just got some fresh sweet cherries as a gift, I can’t wait to try this recipe this weekend! Ha ha, I like the bathtub pic – that is so me too! (It’s the best way to enjoy cocktails!)

    I love the metal glass you have, where did you get it if you don’t mind me asking?

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! ^_^


    • Hi Ashley! Thanks for reading! I would love to know how your cherries turn out! I actually inherited those glasses from my paternal grandmother…they are my favorite! i used to have a matching pitcher, but it was broken during a move. đŸ˜¦ I bet you could find some similar glasses on Etsy – try searching something like “mid-century silver highball glasses.” Good luck with your search and the cherries!

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