Put a Cherry Bounce in your step
Cherry Bounce, a cordial whose roots go back at least to the early 19th century. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
George Washington-Inspired Cherry Bounce
1 pound of fresh cherries, pitted
¾ cup of white sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken into thirds
1, 750 ml bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon
3 pint-sized Mason jars
Clean and sterilize the Mason jars. I find this is easiest to do in the dishwasher on the high heat, sanitizing or pots and pans cycle. Divide the pitted cherries among the Mason jars filling each one 3/4 full. Add 1/3 cup of sugar and a section of the cinnamon stick to each jar. Cover the cherries with the bourbon. Seal each jar and turn occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Put the three jars of Cherry Bounce on a shelf in a dark cool place for 3-6 months before serving.
Updated: February 14, 2013 11:16PM
My grandma, Virginia, kept an enormous jar of ominous looking cherries on the upper shelf of her broom closet.
She wedged it snugly between the Pine Sol and the mop bucket and I’d occasionally find her teetering on a stepstool to reach the precious jug. My grandma was a hardworking and intelligent woman, but she took half a Valium every day and sipped peppermint schnapps while she did the dishes at night so it probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that she’d occasionally snack on a few boozy cherries in the afternoon.
Homemade hooch has an inherently old school vibe, but it turns out that the spirit, known as Cherry Bounce, that my grandma kept in her closet, has roots dating back to the early 19th century. In fact, George Washington was known to enjoy a cordial glass full of Cherry Bounce on occasion, and Martha Washington’s hand-written recipe for the fruity spirit can be found on display at the Mount Vernon museum.
According to George Washington Wired, a Mount Vernon website, Martha Washington’s version of the cordial contained tart cherries, cognac, sugar and spices, but my grandma opted to use a less than subtle combination of vodka, brandy and whisky to saturate her batch of Door County cherries. Further research indicated that the type of alcohol used in a Cherry Bounce recipe is a matter of personal taste, but brown liquors seem to be more popular than clear options like vodka.
Sugar is a must in the ingredient lists on every recipe I’ve ever seen to bring balance to the cordial. Some recipes opt to include additional spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix, but my grandma left out any additional flavoring in hers. I guess when you have a trifecta of liquors at the top of an ingredient list, it’s best to show some restraint when it comes to spices, otherwise folks might start worrying that you’ve got a problem.
When considering the proper mix of ingredients to make my own version of Cherry Bounce, I settled on bourbon, cinnamon sticks and sugar. Mrs. Washington left the pits in her cherries, but I think they just get in the way. After a good long sit on a dark shelf, Cherry Bounce tastes a little like an intense Manhattan and the strained cherries are delicious served over vanilla ice cream. The steeped bourbon is lovely served as a diminutive post-dinner cordial or as a flavoring for a good old-fashioned Champagne cocktail.
What better way to celebrate President’s Day than by whipping up a batch of George Washington’s drink of choice? In fact, a batch of Cherry Bounce made today will be mighty tasty by the time the Fourth of July rolls around, making it the ideal cocktail to celebrate two patriotic holidays.