bourbon soaked cherries recipe

Bourbon Soaked Cherries: The Perfect Addition to Desserts and Cocktails

Bourbon-soaked cherries are a delectable treat that marries the bold flavor of bourbon with the natural sweetness of cherries. This culinary delight involves steeping ripe cherries in bourbon, often with additional ingredients like sugar, vanilla, or spices, to enhance the flavor. They serve as a sophisticated addition to a variety of dishes and drinks, elevating the taste experience with their rich and complex profile.

The process of soaking cherries in bourbon is not just about infusing fruit with alcohol; it's an art that echoes throughout history. These spirited cherries are a staple in classic cocktails such as Manhattans and Old Fashioneds but have also found their way into desserts and as standalone garnishes. As their popularity grows, they have become a fashionable way to add a touch of elegance to both the home bar and the culinary scene.

Key Takeaways

  • Bourbon-soaked cherries blend the sweetness of cherries with the complexity of bourbon.
  • They have historical roots in cocktail making and are versatile in modern cuisine.
  • These cherries are often used to enhance the flavor of drinks and desserts.

History and Tradition

Bourbon-soaked cherries have a storied past, closely intertwined with the tradition of preserving fruit in alcohol. Historically, this method served both to preserve cherries and to create a flavorful ingredient for culinary uses.

  • Maraschino Cherries: These are a well-known preserved cherry type, originally made with Marasca cherries soaked in luxurious Maraschino liqueur. Originating from Croatia, they have been a delicacy in Europe since the early 1800s.
  • Luxardo Maraschino Cherries: A renowned variant, these cherries are soaked in a Maraschino liqueur crafted by the Luxardo company, which dates back to 1821 in Italy. They gained prestige for their quality and authentic preparation.

As preferences evolved, people began experimenting with various spirits. Bourbon, with its sweet and oaky undertones, emerged as an excellent complement to cherries. The use of this American whiskey became particularly popular in the United States, coupling the fruit's tartness with the liquor's depths.

Brandied cherries entered the scene as another form of spirit-infused fruit. But unlike the clear spirit used in making Maraschino cherries, brandy brought a richer, more robust flavor profile to the table. This added complexity made them a favorite in cooking, especially in recipes needing a burst of nuanced fruitiness.

In cooking and cocktail preparation, bourbon-soaked cherries have earned their place. They represent a fusion of tradition with American innovation, creating a versatile ingredient that enhances dishes and drinks alike. The tradition persists today not only due to heritage but because of the undeniable allure these cherries add to gastronomy.

Selecting the Right Ingredients

The creation of bourbon soaked cherries relies heavily on two fundamental components: the quality of the cherries and the type of bourbon used. Both elements play critical roles in determining the final flavor.

Types of Cherries

When selecting cherries, one has the option between sweet and tart varieties. Sweet cherries, such as the dark and plump Bing cherries, are often preferred for their robust flavor and substantial flesh. For those desiring a sharper taste, tart cherries provide a delightful contrast to the sweetness of the bourbon.

  • Sweet Cherries:
    • Bing
    • Black Stone
    • Rainier
  • Tart Cherries:
    • Montmorency
    • Morello

Choosing The Bourbon

The choice of bourbon is pivotal to the infusion process, imparting distinct flavor notes to the cherries. While high-end, expensive bourbon may seem appealing, it is not necessary. A mid-range bourbon whiskey, known for its balanced flavors, works exceptionally well for soaking cherries.

Select bourbons include:

  • Jim Beam: Offers a smooth, mellow taste.
  • Maker's Mark: Known for its sweetness and hints of vanilla.
  • Wild Turkey: Brings forth a spicier, more robust profile.

It is essential to note that the bourbon's inherent flavors will blend with the fruit, so one should choose a bourbon that complements the cherries' natural sweetness or tartness.

Preparation Essentials

Proper preparation of bourbon-soaked cherries can significantly enhance their flavor and usability. Having the right tools at hand streamlines the process, ensuring the cherries retain their shape and absorb the bourbon effectively.

Using a Cherry Pitter

For ease and efficiency, a cherry pitter is the ideal tool to remove the pits from cherries. The simplicity of this device allows one to quickly prep the cherries while keeping them whole. Kitchen tools like cherry or olive pitters are designed to remove the pit with minimal damage to the fruit.

  • Steps to use a cherry pitter:
    1. Wash the cherries.
    2. Place a cherry in the pitter.
    3. Squeeze the handle to eject the pit.
    4. Repeat for the remaining cherries.

Pitting Without a Cherry Pitter

If a cherry pitter is not available, one can still remove the pits using common kitchen tools. A sturdy straw or a small knife can be utilized to push out the pit from the cherry.

  • Alternatives for pitting:
    • Using a straw: Position the straw at the stem end and push through, ejecting the pit.
    • Using a knife: Make a small incision and carefully remove the pit, taking care not to crush the cherry.

Cocktail Tools

After pitting the cherries, one should prepare them for infusion. Cocktail cherries are a key garnish, so keeping them presentable is important.

  • Essential cocktail tools:
    • Mason jars for storing the cherries
    • A saucepan for creating the syrup
    • A spoon or stirrer for mixing the bourbon
    • Measuring spoons for precision

By using these tools and methods, one can ensure their bourbon-soaked cherries are perfectly prepared.

The Soaking Process

The soaking process is critical for developing the flavor of bourbon-soaked cherries, involving a balance of sweetness, spices, and the rich depth of bourbon. Proper technique ensures the cherries absorb these flavors effectively.

Creating the Mixture

The mixture begins on the stove, where sugar and bourbon are combined over low heat until the sugar dissolves. This creates a simple syrup. Depending on the recipe, additional flavorings such as vanilla extract, a cinnamon stick, orange peel, or ginger may be added. Some recipes may use honey as a sweetener for a different profile. Everything is brought to a slight simmer—never a boil—to allow flavors to meld.

Maceration Duration

After the syrup is prepared and cooled, it's poured over sweet cherries that are placed in mason jars. The duration of maceration can range, but typically, cherries are left to soak from several hours to a couple of days. The longer they macerate, the more pronounced the bourbon flavor will be.

Jar Sealing and Storage

Once the cherries are soaked in the syrup, the mason jars should be sealed tightly to make them airtight. It is then advisable to store them in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life and maintain freshness. The seal prevents the entry of air which could compromise the quality of the cherries over time.

Recipe and Cooking Instructions

In crafting bourbon-soaked cherries, one has a set of straightforward steps to follow. The process mandates precision with preparation and cooking to achieve the desired flavor profile and texture within the fruit.

Classic Bourbon-Soaked Cherries Recipe

To prepare classic bourbon-soaked cherries, gather fresh cherries, with stems removed and pits extracted, and a sufficient amount of bourbon to cover the fruit in jars. One starts the procedure by ensuring cherries are clean and pitted. They are then tightly packed into mason jars.


  • Fresh cherries
  • Bourbon
  • Sugar (for simple syrup, if desired)
  • Water (for simple syrup)


  1. Place clean, pitted cherries into mason jars.
  2. If desired, create a simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water, bringing the mixture to a boil on medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour the bourbon over the cherries until covered.
  4. Seal jars and allow them to rest.

The preparation time is typically around 15 minutes, with no cooking required if not opting for simple syrup. However, if one chooses to add simple syrup to the mix, boil time is under 5 minutes. The total time will also include a resting period for the cherries to absorb the bourbon, ideally a few days to several weeks.

Variations and Flavor Additions

To enhance bourbon-soaked cherries, one might introduce additional flavors such as vanilla, citrus peel, cinnamon, or honey during the syrup creation phase.

Suggested Additions:

  • Vanilla extract
  • Orange peel
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Honey instead of sugar for syrup

Incorporate these ingredients into the syrup as it simmers and allow the mixture to cool before adding to the cherries for a more complex flavor profile.

Cooking Time and Temperatures

While the cooking time and temperatures mostly relate to the simple syrup, it's vital to adhere to proper heat levels.

For making simple syrup:

  • Combine sugar and water in a 1:1 ratio.
  • Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Allow the syrup to simmer for an additional minute or so, ensuring it is clear and the sugar is fully integrated before removing from heat.

No actual cooking is necessary for the cherries themselves; they are merely infused with the flavors of the bourbon and any added ingredients over time.

Usage in Cocktails and Desserts

Bourbon-soaked cherries offer a rich, complex flavor that enhances both alcoholic beverages and sweet treats. Their versatility makes them a favorite for creative mixologists and bakers.

As a Garnish

Bourbon cherries serve as an elegant garnish, adding a touch of sophistication to various cocktails. Popping a single cherry into an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan not only gives a visual appeal but also introduces a subtle bourbon-infused sweetness that complements the drink's profile.

  • Cocktails Known for Cherry Garnishes:
    • Old Fashioned
    • Manhattan
    • French 75
    • Sangria

These cherries often rest on the rim of the glass or float among ice, providing an enticing treat once the drink is finished. Chefs may also pair them with an orange slice for a color and flavor contrast.

Incorporating into Recipes

Beyond garnishing, bourbon cherries are an excellent ingredient, infusing a boozy kick into various desserts. They become succulent additions that carry the bourbon flavor into the dessert itself.

  • Dessert Recipes Featuring Bourbon Cherries:
    • Ice cream: Integrating chopped cherries into homemade vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
    • Cakes: Enhancing buttercream fillings or used as a decadent layer in between cake tiers.
    • Chocolate: Creating a grown-up version of chocolate-covered cherries.

These cherries can be simmered down into a sauce that drizzles over desserts or folded into batter for an unexpected twist. Their unique taste marries well with the richness of chocolate and the creaminess of ice cream, ensuring a memorable dessert experience.

Health and Nutritional Information

When considering the health and nutritional aspects of bourbon-soaked cherries, one should examine the components separately: the cherries and the bourbon. The cherries maintain most of their nutritional benefits, which includes a rich array of vitamins, fiber, and a small amount of protein.

Cherries are naturally low in calories, with roughly 50 calories per 100 grams, and they provide a decent amount of fiber, aiding in digestion. They also offer a minimal amount of protein. It's important to note that the sodium content in cherries is very low, making them a good option for those monitoring their sodium intake.

Nutrient Amount per 100g of Cherries
Calories 50 kcal
Carbohydrates 12g
Fiber 1.6g
Protein 1g
Sodium 3mg

Bourbon, on the other hand, is a distilled spirit and contributes to the calorie content without providing significant nutritional benefits. However, in the context of bourbon-soaked cherries, the amount of bourbon absorbed is relatively small.

It must be taken into account that the sugar content may increase if the cherries are soaked in a syrup that contains added sugars. A homemade bourbon cherry recipe allows for control over the amount of added sugar, which can help manage the overall carbohydrate intake.

In summary, bourbon-soaked cherries should be enjoyed in moderation, considering the added sugars and alcohol content. When made at home, one has the ability to customize the recipe to balance taste and nutritional preferences.

Preservation and Shelf Life

When it comes to preserving bourbon-soaked cherries, understanding their shelf life is crucial. An unopened jar of commercially prepared cherries can typically last for up to two years. Once opened, however, the cherries should be kept in the refrigerator to maintain their quality and extend their shelf life.

For homemade bourbon-soaked cherries, the key to preservation is using the right container and technique. Chefs recommend using mason jars with tight-sealing lids, creating an airtight environment that inhibits bacterial growth and helps retain the cherries' flavor and texture.

  • Seal: Ensure the mason jar's lid is sealed properly after the cherries have been submerged in the bourbon mixture.
  • Refrigerate: Store the sealed jars in the refrigerator, where they can last for several months.
  • Check the Seal: Periodically check the jar to ensure the seal remains intact, as a compromised seal could lead to spoilage.

If not preserved properly, bourbon-soaked cherries might lose their taste or become unsafe to eat. By following these guidelines, one can enjoy their rich and boozy flavor for an extended period, ensuring a delightful addition to cocktails and desserts at any time.

Serving and Presentation Tips

When offering bourbon soaked cherries, they should be served with intention and style. These boozy fruits make delightful garnishes and unique gifts, enhancing the overall experience of a cocktail or a dessert.


  • Cocktails: Add a sophisticated touch to drinks by skewering a cherry with a cocktail pick. Place atop classics like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan.
  • Desserts: A single cherry on a scoop of vanilla ice cream adds a hint of elegance and a burst of flavor.


  • In Glassware: Serve the cherries in a sleek glass dish to showcase their rich color and glossy finish.
  • On a Board: Incorporating them into a charcuterie board adds an unexpected twist alongside cheeses and meats.

As Gifts:

  • Jars: Pack soaked cherries in mason jars, tying a ribbon around the neck for a simple yet tasteful look.
  • Labels: Attach labels with the cherries' name and soaking date, ensuring they feel personal and well-thought-out.

Additional Tips:

  • Zest: Adding a curl of lemon or orange zest to the jar can complement the cherries' flavors.
  • Peel: For a subtle enhancement, include a strip of citrus peel in each serving.
  • Refrigeration: Ensure to keep them chilled until serving for optimal freshness.
  • Quantity: Offer multiple cherries per person to satisfy their palate for boozy fruit.

These tips will help one create an appealing and memorable experience for guests and recipients of bourbon soaked cherries.

Cultural Significance and Popularity

Bourbon-soaked cherries have established a prominent place in the world of mixology and home bars, owing much of their popularity to their role in classic cocktails such as Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. A Manhattan often features a bourbon-soaked cherry at the bottom of the glass, giving the drink a touch of elegance and a burst of flavor. Similarly, an Old Fashioned may be garnished with a cherry, allowing the bourbon's characteristics to be complemented by the fruit's sweetness.

In home bars, mixologists view these cherries as a symbol of sophistication. They are not only used for their flavor profile but also appreciated for the artistry they bring to cocktail crafting. Bourbon cherries are a testament to the detail-oriented nature of modern cocktail culture.

Classic Cocktail Significance of Bourbon Cherries
Manhattan Adds depth and a finishing touch
Old Fashioned Complements the bourbon's flavor

The trend of creating gourmet cocktail garnishes has only fueled the cherries' popularity. They serve as a clear distinction between a standard drink and one that has been crafted with attention to detail and an appreciation for nuanced flavors.

Bourbon-soaked cherries embody a balance of tradition and creativity, making them an essential component for enthusiasts looking to enhance their concoctions with a touch of historical charm and contemporary flair.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bourbon-soaked cherries are a popular gourmet garnish for cocktails and desserts. Here, one will find answers to common queries about preparing and using bourbon-soaked cherries.

What is the best recipe for making bourbon-soaked cherries?

The best recipe typically involves fresh cherries, quality bourbon, a simple syrup, and optionally, flavors like vanilla or orange liqueur. It is a straightforward process of pitting the cherries, combining them with the other ingredients, and allowing them to infuse.

How long does it take to prepare bourbon cherries for cocktails?

Preparation time is generally short, but the cherries need to be left to soak in the bourbon mixture for at least two weeks for optimal flavor development.

Can you provide a Southern Living style recipe for bourbon-soaked cherries?

A Southern Living style recipe would involve using a high-quality bourbon, like one from Kentucky, and incorporating regional flavors such as a hint of mint or replacing sugar with honey in the simple syrup for a more Southern twist.

Are there any special considerations for making bourbon-marinated maraschino cherries?

When marinating maraschino cherries in bourbon, one must first drain them of their original syrup. Maraschino cherries are already sweet, so the simple syrup can be adjusted or omitted based on personal preference.

What is the shelf life of cherries soaked in alcohol, and how should they be stored?

Cherries soaked in alcohol can last up to one year when stored properly. They should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator to maintain their quality.

In what ways can I incorporate Woodford Reserve bourbon cherries into my culinary creations?

Woodford Reserve bourbon cherries can be used to enhance cocktails, muddled into sauces for savory dishes, or as an accompaniment to desserts that complement their rich, oaky flavor profile.

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