A riff on a drink made by Martha Washington
Cherry bounce dates back at least to 17th century England – and was quite popular in colonial America. In fact, Martha Washington made a big batch every year (we provide her recipe in the Notes).
Made the traditional way, cherry bounce takes a few months to age and mature. But we can’t wait that long. So we’re offering a cocktail version that’s much faster and easier to make, while still dispensing great flavor.
Martha (and George) would approve.
Recipe: The Cherry Bounce Cocktail
Classic cherry bounce is made by infusing a mix of cherries, sugar, and spices with a spirit. Brandy has long been the traditional liquor, but rum and whiskey are common too.
Our cocktail doesn’t use traditionally made cherry bounce (although we provide a recipe for this in the Notes). Instead, we use cherry syrup (recipe in the Notes) and then combine that with other ingredients.
We’re using a cocktail recipe developed by Eric Felten (one that he published in the Wall Street Journal years ago).
This recipe calls for allspice dram (aka pimento dram). This is an allspice liqueur that has spicy, zesty flavor. You can omit it if you don’t have any on hand (we bought some just to make this drink), but it does add a lot of flavor. Over the next year or so, we’ll be using this ingredient in some other drinks, so it won’t go to waste.
Assuming you have cherry syrup on hand (which takes about an hour to make), this recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare. It serves 1.
- 1½ ounces cognac or brandy (see Notes for substitutions)
- ¼ ounce allspice dram (or to taste; see Notes)
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ ounce cherry syrup (see Notes)
- optional garnish of a lemon wheel and/or a fresh cherry (you’ll want to pit the cherry)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the contents are well chilled (about 20 seconds).
- Strain into a rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass filled with ice. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- You can serve this “up” in a cocktail glass. But we think it drinks better on the rocks.
- We sometimes add a splash of sparkling water to the glass before serving this. We like the added fizz, and it makes for a lighter flavored drink.
- We prefer to use brandy in this drink. But feel free to substitute rum or bourbon if you prefer.
- To make cherry syrup: Place 12 to 16 ounces of cherries in a 2-quart saucepan (you can use frozen cherries or pitted and stemmed fresh cherries). Add 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to the barest simmer, then simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool. Pour the mixture into a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl. Press down on the cherries with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Bottle the syrup and store it in the refrigerator (it will keep for several weeks).
- Don’t want to make cherry syrup? We suppose you could substitute a cherry liqueur like Cherry Heering. We haven’t tried this, though, so we’re guessing.
- Allspice (pimento) dram can be found at any good liquor store. St. Elizabeth is the brand we see most often (and the one we use). But there are several other good brands available.
- Allspice dram has a fairly assertive flavor. So you may want to use a touch less than we suggest.
- Martha Washington’s recipe for cherry bounce calls for extracting the juice of 20 pounds of ripe morello cherries. Add the juice to 10 quarts of French brandy, then add white sugar to taste. Add equal quantities of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg to taste. Add about 3 cups of crushed cherry pits. Let the mixture steep for a couple of months in a well-stoppered container. Then strain into bottles (you might want to add some extra sugar to each bottle) and store until ready to imbibe.
- OK, that’s not a recipe most of us are going to make. Here’s a downsized version: Place 3 to 4 cups of fresh, stemmed cherries (slightly crushed) in a jar. Add about 2 cups of brandy, whiskey, rum, or vodka (enough to comfortably cover the cherries). Add a couple sticks of cinnamon, along with other spices if you wish (cloves, star anise, and some shavings of nutmeg would be our choice). Add sugar if you wish (about 1 cup should do it). Cover the jar and let it sit in a dark, cool place for several weeks. Then strain the mixture into bottles and store in the refrigerator. BTW, save the cherries – they’re supposed to be good served over ice cream or other desserts.
- That’s still not a recipe most of us will make. We’ll stick with the cherry syrup method.
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“Hot dram,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This drink is delicious.”
“Indeed,” I said. “That allspice dram is cherry good stuff.”
“That pun was the pits,” said Mrs K R. “You need to do better, mon cherr-ee.”
“Maybe I need a few more quarts of brandy,” I said. “To channel Martha Washington.”
“Yeah, now we know how George kept warm at Valley Forge,” said Mrs K R.
Too bad he cut down the cherry tree.
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