Canning with Booze: Cherries Two Ways

I like cocktails with a built-in snack: a Pimm’s cup with cucumber spears, a gin martini with lots of olives, a Bloody Mary with as much veg as I can fit in the glass (celery and cornichons!).  And cherries, too. Sadly, store-bought maraschino cherries are terrible, over-sweetened, rubbery little things. Historically, maraschino cherries means a specific variety of cherry (Maraska, from Croatia and Italy) preserved in Maraschino liqueur (made from Maraksa cherries). Now, what’s sold as Maraschino cherries are dyed red, and soaked in brine and sugar. Which sounds more appealing, really?

cherry bowl

I had two drinks in mind when I decided to preserve a pound of cherries from the farmer’s market this week – a Manhattan, and a Last Word. Ok, a Last Word doesn’t require a cherry, and I’ve only seen it served that way on occasion, but it is my favorite classic cocktail with maraschino, and I’m going to serve mine with a cherry.

I prefer rye (instead of bourbon or whiskey) in my Manhattan.  While I think the maraschino cherry (with hints of cherry and almond) would go nicely with the well-balanced Last Word, I wanted a rounder, fatter flavor for my Manhattan cherries, so it wouldn’t get overpowered by the rye. I remembered a recipe a friend had shared for brandied cherries, and decided it was worth a try.
cherries with maraschino and brandy

So, here’s my cherries two ways. Each half-pound of cherries makes a pint. Make sure to sterilize your jars and simmer your lids, even if they’re going straight to the refrigerator.

I did have the good fortune to borrow a cherry pitter. You could give it a try manually, with a chopstick, but this tool allows you to push the pit straight through while keeping the cherry more or less intact.  Though, as you can see, there’s a fair bit of splatter from the process, so you’ll want to keep a sponge handy.

cherry pitter


1/2 lb cherries, pitted
1 cup maraschino liqueur

Bring cup of maraschino liqueur to a simmer. Add cherries, turn off heat, and let sit until cool. Scoop cherries into jars, and then pour liquid over the cherries. Seal with lids and bands. Refrigerate.


1/2 lb cherries, pitted
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 sugar
1/4 cup water
cinnamon stick
dash of lemon juice

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil. Add cinnamon and lemon, stir until sugar has completely dissolved. Add cherries, simmer on low for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, remove cinnamon and add brandy. Let cool, scoop cherries into jar, and pour liquid over them. You can top off with more brandy if necessary. Add lids and bands, refrigerate.

cherries in jars

Last Word
1 oz Gin
1 oz Green Chartreuse
1 0z Maraschino Liqueur
1 0z fresh squeezed lime juice

Combine in shaker over ice, shake well, until frosted. Strain into 4 oz glass, serve with maraschino cherry.

Rye Manhattan
2 oz rye
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1 dash aromatic bitters

Combine in tall glass over ice, stir well. Strain into glass, serve with brandied cherry.

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2 Responses to Canning with Booze: Cherries Two Ways

  1. Andrea says:

    I love this cherry recipe It looks so easy and much more apealing with the booze than the store bought ones. I read in a magazine that cherries boost the imune system and help increase meletonine levels to help you fall asleep faster. Haha and if the cherries dont do that the booze will.
    I grew up watching my mom can ftesh foods on a farm when I was 10. Seemed like there was a lot of hot water and heavy lifting involved, I was always cationed about the pressure cooker. The finished product seemed like fairies work with all the clean jars of food lined up on the counter and then in the garage shelves. I wish I could can..This recipe; do I need to put them in boiling water to seal the lids or just put them in the fridge?
    Thank you for reading this. I found yoiur site through a link for Mod Podge Rocks
    Sincerley Andrea

    • admin says:

      Hi Andrea,

      I designed these recipes for refrigeration, so that’s why you don’t see the heavy lifting and boiling water. If you wanted to can them for shelf storage (in a waterbath or pressure canner), it could be done, as there’s a very high alcohol content.

      Sterilize your jars and lids. Pack the cherries and syrup or booze into the jars while still hot. Wipe your rims, add lids and tighten bands. Process in a waterbath for 20 minutes. For a pressure canner, process at 6 PSI for 8 minutes.


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