I got my start with all this a few years back with some cherries. We had put out a Northstar cherry tree when we moved into our current house. Over the several years we had the tree, there was a crop only once. That was about four years ago now. The tree wasn’t very big but it was covered. I ended up with about a gallon or so of cherries. Half of them went to make some preserves and half were steeped in vodka to make cherry bounce.
Cherry bounce was a local staple from moonshining times. The American cherry (Prunus serotina) grows wild around here. Fruit from the tree plus some sugar flavored the local moonshine. I used the recipe James Dabney gave in Mountain Spirits. His reportedly came from a cookbook publisehed by the Junior League in Johnson City, TN. I tracked down a 1961 copy of the book, but didn’t find any mention of it. In fact there was only one recipe for a wine punch and no liquor drinks. Oh well, I’ll put the recipe Dabney gives at the end of this post.
My product was pretty good. It tasted like the cherries (sought of cough syrup cherry flavor). The tree fell victim to our house remodel. I do have one small bottle of the liquor left. The flavor seems to be holding up well.
Things that good can’t be contained. It turns out cherry bouce was a local staple in several places. Eric Felten had a column on the subject a few weeks back that gave Martha Washington’s recipe. Her base was “French brandy.” I had turned up another fairly simple recipe in Charleston Receipts. This one called for whiskey as the base spirit. It was time for our annual beach trip to Charleston, and so time to try my hand at The Charleston variation of this classic.
The Charleston Receipt recipe starts: Go to Old Market in June and get a quart of wild cherries. It was June and I was in Charleston, so as instructed I headed to the market. Charleston has grown a bit since that recipe was put down. In and around Folly Beach we have a Piggly Wiggly, Publix, Earth Fare and Harris Teeter. I settled on the Whole Foods in Mt. Pleasant as my source. I know – Whole Paycheck – and all the other snide remarks that can be made about the place, but I like it and look foward to stopping in when we’re near one. If you stick with the house brands you can get some decent priced stuff. It doesn’t always work though. The cherries weren’t a house brand and ended up costing about three times what they were at the produce stand back here in Asheville. Oh well, I probably made it up on the cooking oils and pale ale I picked up.
Back at rental house I went to work. The recipe didn’t comment on the pits. I assumed this meant that you leave them in. I had remembered to bring my OXO pitter, so I used it. It made since to me that knocking out the pits increased the surface area of exposed fruit and therebu should increase the efficency of the alcohol extraction. There’s also this idea that the pits on stone fruits contain a small amount of cyanide. It was easy enough to pit them. Once done they went into a large jar (Wal Mart, James Island since I forgot to bring one) and mixed with a little sugar. the recipes calls for 1 cup sugar to 1 quart cherries and 1 quart whiskey. I thought about the half cup of sugar I put into two quarts of iced tea was plenty sweet for me, and adjusted my use down to a half cup. This is sprinkled on the cherries and then they sit for a while – “until the juice draws.”
At two days, there was a puddle of juice in the jar. Time to add the whiskey. I used a bottle of Sazerac 6 yr Rye ($26.99 at Green’s in Columbia on the way down). Kind of a splurge, but I didn’t want bad liquor ruining all those cherries I had just hand pitted. Poured that in and sealed it back up. It made the trip back to Asheville with us. July 4th was the tenth day it had been steeping and the day to strain it off. I ended up with enough to refill the Sazerac bottle with 6 ounces left over. That was set aside for later in the night.
I pulled it out toward the end of fun night visiting with friends. We enjoyed a fireworks show (NC legal) while sipping on some Cherry Bounce Manhattans. This one was a keeper. Great drink. Started another batch today with some left over pitted cherries in the fridge . Our ABC stores don’t carry Sazerac, so I did this batch with some Wild Turkey Rye. Recipes below-
Charleston Cherry Bounce
- 1 quart Wild Cherries
- 1 quart whiskey
- 1 cup sugar
Go to Old Market in June and get a quart of wild cherries. Wash same and put in a large-mouthed jar with a full cup of sugar. Let stand until juice draws, then add a quart of whiskey. Cover lightly and steep about ten days, then pour off liquor and bottle. -R. Bentham Simons
ACG Variation – I just used one half cup of sugar. My second batch will have no added sugar and a longer steeping time.
Cherry Bounce Manhattan
- 2 oz Cherry Rye
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- dash of bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Enjoying a Manhattan
From Moutain Spirits:
Here is how the Junior Service League of Johnson City, Tennessee, described “Cherry Bounce” in its compilation of east Tennessee recipes, Smoky Mountain Magic: “To one gallon of white spirits put two quarts of water and five to six quarts of wild cherries. Wash cherries and put in jug with alcohol. Corn cob stopper in jug. After they stand three months, drain off liquor and strain it well, sometimes twice. Make a thick syrup with one and one-half pounds white sugar and water and boil until ropy. Add the syrup to liquor from jug to taste.”