How much do I love cherries? So much that I have them tattooed on my back. When I worked as a professional dominatrix, my name was Mistress Cherry. At my wedding, we served spiked cherry limeade that I pre-batched myself, with the help of friends. I really enjoy cherries. I also enjoy cooking food over fire so I can smell woodsmoke, and by extension, smell like woodsmoke until I wash my hair and clothes again. (I have been known to postpone both to prolong the experience, to the point of being borderline gross.) Cherry season is cruelly short, and woodsmoke is by its nature ephemeral, so I do whatever I can to prolong both of them.
Cherry bounce is a drink that's been around for at least a few centuries, and in America is widely known as a particular favorite of George Washington. First Lady Martha Washington was in possession of a rather righteous cherry bounce recipe, and her husband was known to pack a flask of it along as he traveled. It keeps well if it's kept in a cool, dark place, and it's one of the prettiest beverages you could possibly pour—red as rubies, and packing a powerful alcoholic punch. I couldn't help but mess with it a bit and make it my own.
Every summer as I spend my days cooking briskets and shoulders low and slow over charcoal and wood, I take the opportunity to steal a little flavor where I can. I slip foil pans of fresh, stemmed cherries onto a rack away from the heat and shake them around a little every time I open the smoker to mop the meat and add fresh coals. After anywhere from 30-90 minutes, the cherries have soaked in the heady smoke and slightly sweetened in the heat. They're stunningly good eaten as is, but I save some of the batch for bounce.
This drink takes a little patience. You'll spend the peak summer months staring at the jar, willing it to be ready, but if you start now, you can spend the very last week of the season in a smoky, cherry-scented haze just savoring the fruits of the season past.
1 cup smoked cherries (see instructions above), stemmed and pitted
5 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 quart brandy or rye
How to Make It
In a large pot, combine smoked and fresh cherries, sugar, and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat, then reduce to low. Simmer and stir for about 20 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Pour cherry mixture into a large, clean, lidded jar and top with liquor. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place for 3 months.
Strain liquid into another clean jar and serve as desired. Leftover infused cherries can be used in cocktails and desserts.