Sour Cherry Cordial by American Fruits. KRISTIINA WILSON
“The key to making a perfect cocktail is balance,” said Jennifer Kalil, marketing manager for Ford’s Gin with the 86 Company. “I always find myself looking for the layers in a cocktail. How the drink starts through its finish. Too often, bartenders concern themselves more with measuring the alcohol going into the drink but not the lemon, lime, or whichever citrus and sugars are being used.”
With that cocktailing mantra in mind, I thought: Wouldn’t the sour cherry, the essence of both sour and sweet—the balance inherent in any good drink—make the ultimate cocktail accouterment?
“They’re very special,” agreed Richard Scoffier, consultant for Black Dirt Distillery. One of the products Mr. Scoffier represents, the Warwick Valley Winery American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial, is, stripped of pretense, an homage to the fruit. Using Montmorency cherries sourced in New York’s Finger Lakes Region, Warwick Valley’s cordial is a blend of apple and cherry brandies, sweetened with sour cherry juice and cane sugar. Mr. Scoffier first became familiar with the spirit when he was working as the Beverage Director at Nick & Toni’s, using the cordial to create what he calls, “The New Fangled, an exploded Old Fashioned.” The cocktail is a spin on a familiar classic. One can almost summon an aging-but-still-handsome Don Draper, New Fangled in hand. “When I’m an old man,” Mr. Scoffier said, with no lack of nostalgia, “I hope they’re still serving that drink.” He garnishes his with a brandied cherry.
Which brings me to the iconic Manhattan, which should arrived stirred, cold, and garnished with a single cherry. Melissa Clark suggests making your own maraschinos for such purposes, which will hold in quart containers in the fridge for a year. Take cleaned, pitted cherries, put them in a sealable container of your choice, cover with boiling maraschino liqueur, et voila! Adventurous cooks in search of a deeper challenge can try their hands at sour cherry bitters, which requires time and patience, but yields a rich, rewarding, and infinitely reusable product.
As for me, I prefer an alcoholic spin on a shrub, which is a refreshing drink made from fruit syrup and vinegar. My version combines sour cherries reduced to syrup, apple cider vinegar, cold seltzer, and an ounce of good vodka. On a warm July evening, for just a moment in the fuzzy space between dusk and dark, between summer and everything else, there is no finer reward.
Brandied Sour Cherries4 c. sour cherries, cleaned and pitted
¾ c. sugar
¾ c. water
Juice from one lemon
4 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
2 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 c. brandy of your choice1. In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together sugar, water, lemon juice, spices, and brandy. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set a strainer over the bowl holding the cherries and pour the hot liquid through the strainer over the cleaned fruit. Stir to combine and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries to a clean mason jar. Fill the jar with enough of the liquid to cover the cherries, leaving the lip of the jar clean and dry. Place the lid on the jar and secure. Transfer to the refrigerator and hold for 6 weeks before using. Cherries will hold for a year in the refrigerator. Liquid can also be used to enhance cocktails.Maraschino Cherries (Courtesy Melissa Clark)
1 c. maraschino liqueur
4 c. sour cherries, cleaned and pittedBring maraschino liqueur to a simmer in a small pot. Turn off heat and add cherries. Let cool and store in a sealed jar of your choice for at least 2 days before using. Cherries will hold in the refrigerator for up to a year.Sour Cherry Bitters(Adapted from Serious Eats)
1 ½ c. sour cherries, cleaned and pitted
1 c. neutral grain spirit
1 whole star anise, crushed
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. orange extract
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp. gentian root
1 c. rye whiskey1. Make the cherry flavoring. Put the cherries in a sealable glass jar with 1/2 cup of the neutral grain spirit. Be sure this jar is large enough to later hold an additional 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Shake. This is the cherry flavoring.
2. Make the spice mix. Put the anise, fennel, orange extract, and cardamom in a different sealable glass jar with remaining 1/2 cup of the grain spirit. Shake.
3. Make the bitters mix: Put the gentian root in a sealable glass jar with the rye whiskey. Shake. Set all jars aside in a dark place at room temperature.
4. After 10 days, strain the spice mix and bitter mix through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the solids. Strain again through a coffee filter into the cherry flavoring jar. Do not remove the cherries. Shake. You now have one jar that contains the strained spice mix and bittering mix along with the steeping cherries and alcohol. Let this steep for an additional 11 days.
5. Strain out the cherries through a fine-mesh sieve, and then strain the rest through a coffee filter into your desired container. Store at room temperature for up to 1 year.Sour Cherry Syrup
(Adapted from Najmieh Batmanglij)5 c. sugar
4 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 lbs. washed and stemmed sour cherries, cleaned and pitted1. In a large pan, bring sugar, lime juice, and 3 c. water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add cherries to pan. Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
2. Set cherries in syrup aside and let everything cool.
3. Strain cherries from syrup using a fine mesh sieve. You can reserve the cherries and use them in baking or as a cocktail garnish.
3. Pour syrup into the lidded jar of your choice. Keep in refrigerator until needed.The New Fangled (Courtesy Richard Scoffier)
2 oz. Black Dirt Distillery Bourbon
1 oz. American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial
3 shakes orange bitters
Orange wedge, for rim
Raw sugarRim a rocks glass with orange wedge and raw sugar. Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with brandied cherries.Sour Cherry Manhattan2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. reserved brandy from brandied cherries
2 dashes sour cherry bitters
1 maraschino cherry, for garnishIn a chilled cocktail shaker or pint glass, combine rye whiskey, brandy, and bitters. Add ice and stir until very cold. Strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with 1 maraschino cherry.Boozy Sour Cherry Shrub:1 oz. sour cherry syrup
1 oz. apple cider vinegar
1 oz. vodka
4 oz. cold, unflavored seltzer
1 syruped cherry, for garnishIn a cocktail shaker or pint glass, combine cherry syrup, cider vinegar, and vodka. Add ice and shake until very cold. Strain into a highball glass filled with new ice and top with seltzer. Garnish with 1 syruped cherry. Serve with a straw.
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