This year my husband and I have ventured into the world of craft cocktails. We fell in love with a local place here in Atlanta called The Lawrence, where their mixologists craft perfectly balance and mixed drinks, using quality ingredients. It’s fun to try new drinks, and get out of the old vodka tonic rut. It’s also fun to learn what works together and what doesn’t, as well as shopping for new ingredients. We recently stocked up on a variety of bitters from 18.21 Bitters at Ponce City Market, as well as other essential cocktail ingredients like Aperol, Campari, and Luxardo.
I noticed that at several of the cocktail bars we’ve been to they used a different type of cherry – one that had a nice, boozy flavor and not the typical neon colored maraschino cherry. I learned that the cherries were Luxardo cherries, made with Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, which is also an ingredient I noticed in some cocktails.
Cherries are out in full force at the grocery stores here, so I picked up a bag and decided that I was going to make my own Luxardo Cherries. First, I’ve mentioned before that you don’t need a special tool to pit cherries – that I usually do it with my chef’s knife. Well, I decided to spend $12 on a cherry pitter and let me tell you – it’s a life changer! I went to town on that bag of cherries and had them pitted in no time.
After reviewing several recipes on the Internet for boozy cherries, I went with the recipe below. Next time I make them, I’m going to reduce the amount of cinnamon – I don’t think they need much – and up the vanilla as well as the lemon juice. The recipe below is as I made them, and I’ve indicated in parentheses the changes I recommend. I made enough for 2 jars, which should keep in the fridge for several weeks. I didn’t see a need to “can” them using sterile jars and heat sealing the lids. Maybe if I was making a large batch to store or hand out as gifts, I’d do that but for our general use I didn’t think it was necessary.
I’m hoping that the longer they sit in the fridge, the better they’ll taste. We used them about 48 hours after I made them and they tasted fine, but I think they could taste even better, with some tweaking of the recipe as well as just marinading in the refrigerator.
1 lb cherries, pitted and stems removed (I kept the stems on just a few of them)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice (next time I’m using 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (next time I’m only using 1/4 teaspoon – or skipping altogether)
2 teaspoons vanilla (next time I’m using 1 tablespoon)
3/4 cup Luxardo liqueur
Dissolve the sugar in water in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat, then stir in the lemon juice, vanilla, and cinnamon. Let this cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes – don’t allow it to burn, but keep it at a nice low boil/simmer. Add the cherries and allow to simmer for 1 minute then turn off the heat and let them rest in the warm liquid for 15 minutes. Stir in the Luxardo, and allow to come to room temperature. Carefully spoon the cherries into a couple of glass jars, then top with the liquid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
As I did, go ahead and experiment with the recipe and tweak it to your taste. But don’t, under any circumstances, skip the Luxardo!