My go-to drink is always an Old fashioned. Even though bourbon is typically associated with winter, there's something really comforting about curling up on the couch on a Friday night with a bourbon cocktail and imminent House of Cards marathon (have you watched? I'm hooked!). This cocktail has a twist to it: it's made with cherry-soaked brandy in lieu of sweet vermouth.
This past Christmas, I hinted (annoyingly) that I really wanted some Luxardo Maraschino cherries. Poor Michael scoured every Williams Sonoma and specialty foods shop in NY, but they were sadly sold out. Now, if you'll notice, these cherries do not come cheap, which is why I felt justified asking for them as a gift, since it's something I'd never buy for myself. Michael's search yielded no results, however.
Then, over Christmas break while visiting Boston, we stopped into the Franklin Cafe for a pre-dinner drink and sure enough, they served me an amazing Manhattan with a brandy-soaked cherry that tasted a-may-zing. Nutty, sweet, but not lacking in cherry flavor, these cherries are what I'd imagine Luxardo's hope to taste like. So I set out to make my own.
The results were pretty good, if I do say so myself. Brandy is not my favorite liquor, but it became infused with the cherries, and the cherries mellowed out into sweet little nuggets with a slightly almond flavor. I've found that the brandy replaces sweet vermouth well, so feel free to substitute in other cocktails.
Brandied Cocktail Cherries
- 2 cups white sugar (or use a blend of white/brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp almond extract
- 1 bottle brandy
- 2 lbs sweet cherries, pitted and stemmed
In a pot, gently heat the brandy, almond extract and sugar until it is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the cherries and put in an airtight jar. Let it sit for at least 4 weeks.
Brandied Cherry Old Fashioned
- 2 oz. rye whiskey (I use Bulleit)
- 1 oz. juice from brandied cherries
- 4 dashes angostura bitters
- orange peel
- brandied cherry
In a cocktail shaker, add the orange rind, bitters, rye, and liquid from the brandied cherries. Stir to mix. Strain into a cold glass with ice. Garnish with a brandied cherry.