Brandied cherries are one of those small simple things that make a big impact. I’ve never been satisfied with high fructose corn syrup-laden maraschino cherries that you can buy at supermarkets to garnish and muddle into my drinks. Brandied cherries, not only look classier over their neon red counterparts, but also taste a lot better. They are, however, pretty hard to find, so you generally need to make your own. But what to do in winter when cherries are unavailable?
My wife instantly thought of the morello cherries Trader Joe’s carry, could those be used to make a superior cocktail cherry? Doing some research I found a recipe to make maraschino liqueur* flavored cherries at the Chanticleer Society, and their winter solution is to use the exact Trader Joe’s cherries we had to work with. I’ll probably make their recipe next time, but I just wanted to make plain brandied cherries this time around so I followed similar instructions but adapted it for my use.
Brandied cherries made in winter
- 1 jar Trader Joe’s Morello Cherries in Light Syrup
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup brandy
- some lemon juice
Strain the cherry syrup into a heavy cooking pan and stir in the sugar. Cook until the syrup has been reduced in half. Pour the liquid over the cherries, then add the brandy and a bit of lemon juice. The lemon juice is not required but I wanted to add some more tartness and flavor to the cherries, so add to taste or not at all. If all the liquid doesn’t quite fill the jar with the cherries in it, top off with more brandy, (ignore my photo, that’s just a test batch). The nice thing about these “ghetto” winter cherries is they are ready after 24 hours since the original source cherries are already preserved.
Also, note that you do not need to use expensive brandy for this, you can but it’s probably not necessary. I used a $10 bottle of french brandy I found while at Trader Joe’s but even something like E&J will work fine.
*Note: Don’t confuse maraschino liqueur with store bought maraschino cherries. Maraschino is a bittersweet liqueur made from marasca cherry pits which lend it an almond-like flavor. Maraschino is used in many classic cocktails and is a must for any home bar if you wish to make classic cocktails.