brandied summer cherries

cocktails, drinks, food, fruits, other spirits, preserving, recipes, summer

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I have been patiently waiting for cherry season. As soon as I spied some sweet, ripe, organic cherries, I grabbed about two pounds’ worth and headed home, bursting with ideas on how to capture their ripeness. Of course, I couldn’t resist selecting a handful of the ripest, juiciest ones I could find, right there in the car. It got messy pretty quickly, but I really could have cared less.

I have been thinking about preserving cherries, ever since I saw Kristy Gardner’s bourbon-soaked cherries a while back. She pretty much writes the book on all-things-bourbon, so that’s definitely another upcoming project. For now, since I had some leftover brandy from a recent sangria experiment, I went with a juiced-up, brandied version. They’re super easy and delicious, and they will go perfectly with one of my barrel-aged Manhattans {debuting in my kitchen in about a month!}.

If you have ripe cherries at your fingertips, use them; otherwise, frozen cherries will work just fine. I did walk away with a few tips from the cherry-pitting process:

  1. Wear an apron. If that is not an option, drape a towel over yourself. You’ll thank me.
  2. Maybe invest in a cherry-pitter. I tried using a paperclip, but I ended up loving a simple kebob skewer.
  3. Pour yourself a nice, big glass of wine, find a friend to help, and play a good set of music. This takes a while. I drank a little of this deliciousness {Stolpman “l’Avion” Roussanne, 2011, Santa Ynez Valley, one of my fave summer wines ever} and listened to this {Etherwood’s self-titled, gorgeous drum-and-bass album, on repeat right now}.

Alright, let’s make some brandied cherries!

Brandied Summer Cherries

  • 1 pound ripe, organic cherries {I used Rainier}, and a little extra for juicing {optional}
  • 1/2 cup freshly juiced cherries {you may substitute water}
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/8 cup Cardamaro liqueur
  • 3/8 cup Solerno blood orange liqueur
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 pieces orange peel

If you want to keep it simple, just use brandy as your spirit component. I had a few interesting liqueurs on hand, so I went a little crazy. Another good option is to use 3/4 cup brandy with 1/4 cup orange liqueur, for some added bright citrus notes.

Steps for {the Most Amazing} Brandied Cherries

  1. Wash, de-stem, and pit your cherries.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherry juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. Bring to a low simmer, fully dissolving sugar, about five minutes, letting the spices integrate with the liquid.
  3. Remove from heat and add spirits {brandy, Cardamaro, and Solerno}, stirring to integrate.
  4. Remove cinnamon stick, cloves, and peel. Feel free to keep them, if you want a heavily spiced version of brandied cherries.
  5. Divide cherries into two half-pint canning jars.
  6. Evenly distribute the liquid into the two jars.
  7. Let the jars cool and then transfer into the refrigerator.

The brandied cherries will further develop in flavor over the course of a month. They taste best if used within four months, so this small batch recipe is the perfect size. They are delicious on their own and are the perfect garnish for a Manhattan. If you like a sweeter, fruitier Manhattan, toss a half ounce or so of the brandied cherry juice into your cocktail for added depth and flavor.

Feel free to experiment with the spirit component of this recipe! Try substituting rum, amaretto, or bourbon. I might add a vanilla bean with rum next time. Signing off with a close-up of the cherry-pitting aftermath and some recent garden captures. How are you preserving cherries or any of summer’s current treats? I need to expand my repertoire further! Cheers!


  1. spoonwithme says:

    These look so good! My husband loves fancy cherries to put in his cocktails (and I just like to eat them). I think I’ll make some!

  2. Annie says:

    These look so good! We have loads of vanilla beans lying around so we’ll definitely give these a shot and let you know how it turns out 😀

    • Having extra vanilla beans lying around is definitely not a problem – wish I had more lying around, myself! 😉 Please let me know how they turn out! I am going to try a rum-based infusion with vanilla beans next go-round.

  3. Kelley Green says:

    Is there any reason not to process these in a water bath for longer storage?

    • Good question – you can definitely process in a water bath for longer storage. I have done that before, processing them for ten minutes. I just made this small batch and knew I would use some and give some away within the length of the shelf life.

  4. You little monkey!!! Thank you so much for the mention xoxoxoxo!

    P.S. You definitely need an apron for “dem” cherries – theys be Meeeeeesssssyyyyy!!! xoxo!

    • Ha! They were insanely messy! And I did end up getting a cherry pitter. The worst was going to work the next day after pitting cherries and opening a bottle of very nice wine (right beside a well-lit window!) – this guest was just eyeing my brownish-redish stained fingers. I also invested in some disposable gloves!!! Sloppiness! 😉

      • HAHAHAHAAHHAA… Yes! The WORST! hahahaha.. I just made a batch myself and took some new photos for the post. My fingers are also black/red/brown. Not ideal when serving people food or drink. But damn, my drinks taste good now! 😉

  5. […] but I just couldn’t wait for Colorado cherries. So, I grabbed a couple pints and set out to make some brandied cherries. The process was messy but ever-so-delicious. As I mentioned before, when you decide to pit […]

  6. […] a couple of batches of ice pops, we have made a summer fruit bake, baked a cherry pie, fixed some brandied cocktail cherries, and mixed up some amazing cherry bourbon […]

  7. Tikiwino says:

    Just made a batch with the first Rainer to make to SoCal. Added a couple of cardamom pods to the spice mix. Also did not have Cardamaro so I subbed in Averna. They will rest in the back of the fridge for a few weeks and then they will take a Manhattan bath…

    • How did your cherries turn out? I can completely see the Averna substitution working. I have also played around with Amaro Nonino, and the flavors go perfectly with cherries.

  8. Michael hogan says:

    Lovely web site, great photos and a well written recipe,
    Our cherry tree branches sit low with fruit this spring,
    And I shall sit low with some brandied cherries this winter!
    Thank you

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Michael! I’m a tad late responding, but I appreciate the feedback! I hope you ended up making some brandied cherries. There is seriously nothing like a well-made Manhattan and house-made brandied cherries to go along with it. Cheers!

  9. Tamra Kaufman says:

    So glad to have found this! I froze sweet cherries last summer and am pulling them out tonight to begin the process of brandying. I noticed you are thinking about adding a vanilla bean and rum the next time. I have been making my own vanilla extract with white rum for over 20 years… And had planned to add vanilla beans to my cherries as well.

    As I think over your choices of liqueurs, and I contemplate what types I have on hand, I think I will add a touch of godiva’s chocolate liqueur and my own vanilla rum/extract.

    I am looking forward to seeing how this is going to turn out!

    Thanks so much!

    • Tamra, how did your brandied cherries turn out for you? I’m still enjoying the ones I made this past summer. Did you end up using a vanilla bean? I made some brandied cranberries this past week, and they are my new favorite holiday drink addition. So happy you found another good use for your preserved summer cherries! Homemade vanilla extract is on my to-do list this month. There’s nothing quite like it, and I love the fact you used rum. I think rum’s flavors marry so nicely with the vanilla notes.

      Have a superb holiday season!

  10. […] Kristy’s that I tried was her version of Bourbon-Soaked Cherries. Since then, I’ve made iterations of my own and put them atop ice cream, stuffed them inside galettes and hand pies, and eaten them straight […]

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