Walking the dogs the other day when we stumbled onto one of the greatest neighborhood finds to date.  Several of the wild cherry trees along our street are covered with cherries this year. Last year I only identified one tree as a cherry. It had fruit, but the limbs were so high, my eight foot tent pole couldn’t reach the lowest branch. We had a lot of rain last year and a pretty wet, and for us, a colder winter. The plants around here must like that. We seem to be having a greener spring, with more pollen, more insects and it looks like, more cherries.

The trees (Prunus serotina) put out a good show of flowers in early April. That helped me find two that have limbs that I think I can reach. They are covered with fruit now, bit still a little green. We turned up two other younger trees while walking and one of these has ripe fruit ready for picking.

Picking is  a little awkward – I can only reach the lowest branch. One hand holds the branch while the other picks. I do this while clenching a small plastic grocery bag in my teeth to hold the cherries. Pretty awkward when I take the dogs to help provide cover – their leashes get held in the limb holding hand. Completely worth it though. The fruit is mostly pit, but the flavor of what’s left is great. The fruit doesn’t all ripen at once. Three trips back (last one without the dogs) has given me enough for two small projects.

Cherry Bounce 2010

Last year I did this with store bought fresh cherries. This year the neighborhood fruit will do the trick.

My standard infusion technique now is to just cover the fruit with the liquor.  The picture was taken after the first addition of fruit this past weekend. The second two visits gave enough fruit to get my preferred level of fruit to liquid.

One other side project – making some brandied cherries to use as drink garnishes. There are several recipes for this out there on the net. Here’s a representative one. They all involve cooking the fruit a short time in simple syrup, then combining with brandy and steeping for several weeks, plus or minus some spices. I took a short cut.

I mostly filled a Mason jar with sound cherries, covered that with water, then drained that off to measure the volume of liquid needed (3 oz). Next I combined 2 oz Cognac and 1 oz Cherry Heering. The Cherry Heering is sweetened. Next, I stirred in 2 tbsp of sugar and added 1/8 of a teaspoonful if lemon juice. I skipped adding any water and heating the mix. I wanted more alcohol to work as a preservative. The brandy mixture was then poured back onto the cherries in the jar. That will get set away in the dark for several weeks. The base recipe can be adapted to any liquor you choose,  just add one tablespoonful of sugar for each ounce of unsweetened liquor.

All of this is fairly easy (I didn’t bother to wash or pit the fruit).  I’ll do some more as the other trees ripen.

I noticed that the first cherries I added to the Rye were starting to look very pale (and the rye was getting a red tinge). I thought the Cherry Heering  might help prevent a little loss of color in the jarred cherries. We’ll see. Another thought is to use 1/3 port wine and 2/3 cognac. Updates will follow-

Starting point for the Brandied Cherries


Commercial Brûlot Mix

We’re back after an extended hiatus. Lots going on. Work seems to pick up this time every year as people who’ve been putting things off decide to get it done before the end of the year. That, plus catching up on continuing ed credits and a certification exam deadline combined to make time tight.  Taking the time to mix a cocktail actually became a luxury I couldn’t afford. Maybe I just couldn’t get myself to relax enough to take the time to enjoy one. I opted for easier drinks – beer and wine. Not much thought needed for those, just pop and pour.

Time is less compressed now that the holidays are here. We made our annual pre-Christmas visit to Atlanta. A stop at Tower Beverage got my thoughts back to mixing some up. They have a great selection of base liquors and modifying spirits – both yellow and green Chartreuse, Cherry Heering and many others. I made it home with a couple of minibottles of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, some Angorustera Orange bitters and a bottle of Barbancort 8 year Rum. I almost picked up some Columbian Aguaradente for the shear novelty. I ended up talking myself out of it because I had no idea what to do with it. A gentleman from New Orleans also passed on a copy of New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix em. This is a great, inexpensive guide to drinks from the only city in the US with a distinct cocktail culture. Looking through, one drink really struck me – the Café Brûlot.

The name means Spiced Coffee and that’s what it is. A mixture of Cognac and orange liqueur flavored with cloves, cinnamon and brown sugar. The drink is mixed like a punch at table side by pouring the burning liquor mix into a bowl of coffee. Did I say “burning”? I did, and that is quite cool.

Now a bowl of burning coffee isn’t practical on a day to day basis. The challenge was to come up with some Brulot mix that could be used for a single cup. There are a few recipes on the web, plus the one in the New Orleans book. Looking at those, I came up with the following infused liquor base:

ACG Café Brûlot base

Brûlot Starting Point


Step 1

  • 1 cup Cognac
  • zest of one orange

Steep the orange zest in the cognac for 2 to 3 days, then strain.

This is done to limit the orange flavor which can get quite strong.

Step 2

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp of cinnamon chips or a 2 inch stick broken up

Steep the above items in the cognac for a week, then strain.

Alternatively, you could add the orange zest to the mix three days before the end of the week.

Step 3

  • ½ cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar

Add these to you cognac base then store in a glass container until needed. This mix has a wonderful aroma.

The portions above will just about fill a split (375 ml half wine bottle).

Café Brûlot

Brew a cup of chicory coffee. To make this, I mix equal parts roasted chicory with ground regular and decaf coffee then measure and brew like you I for regular coffee.

Warm up 3 to 4 oz of your mix in a non-flammable container, I used a 1/4 cup metal measuring cup, ignite, then add to the coffee.


Try to keep it between the lines

The genesis for this string of post came from hearing a friend describe her annual egg nog production. I was taken by the amount of work and care she put into making each batch and the obvious craft she brought to the task. She was gracious enough to document the process this year. The techniques involved apply to all of the recipes given in part 2 of these posts-

Here’s my recipe I am true to. It came from my sister’s husband’s family, where they’d keep it in the garage and sip on it until Easter!

  • 1 dozen eggs, separated
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 quart bourbon
  • 1 cup light rum
  • 2 quarts whipping cream

Beat yolks until light yellow in color. Add powdered sugar, which will thicken it. Add booze slowly so not to “cook” the eggs. I have been adding some brandy to spice it up! (5 cups of liquor in all). Set aside in large container. Whip cream to soft peaks. Set aside. Whip egg whites to soft peaks. Fold in whipped cream and egg whites. Stir daily until ready to serve. It looses a lot of volume. I like to start now (around Thanksgiving) for Christmas. I usually strain before serving to get out any stubborn lumps.
















Gettting Started 



















Progressive additions to the yolks















Beaten egg whites, then cream are folded in




The final mix is stored in the refrigerator, stirring every few days until it is needed.


We got our hands on some the other night. It was really something – light and airy with the complex flavors of the liquors and a mouth coating texture. A real treat and miles removed from the grocery store cartons.


Punches are tough things to make – you need a lot of people together to justify making a batch.  I’ve been thinking about trying one. I was looking for some egg nog recipes in which I could use the spiced rum. That lead me to my copy of Charleston Receipts, a South Carolina classic. The book was put together by the Junior League of Charleston (SC) and published in 1950. It is a collection of family recipes. Conventional wisdom has it that these passed down recipes represent cooking (and drinking) from the 18th and 19th century.  This can lead to some culinart archaeology when you use the recipes. I proposed to my wife over an oyster pie described in this book. I also used a neat way to cook quails described on the book when the opportunity presented itself last year. Currently working on securing a possum to try out that signature dish.

The book starts with a section on drinks. Most are punches with proportions that would satisfy 100 or so people gathered for a major social event. One caught my eye because it included tea, a Charleston stand by.

Rum Punch

“This was the punch my father made for all the debutante parties of my generation.”


1 gallon brandy              2 quarts black tea

½ gallon heavy or           2 dozen lemons

light rum

1 pint peach brandy        Sugar to taste

5-6 quarts of carbonated water


Add carbonated water just before serving, more or less according to the strength puch to have. 1 pint curaco or maraschino as well as strawberries, cherries or a few slices of pineapple may be added.  130-140 servings Mrs Ralph Hanson (Eleanor Rutlidge)

You see what I have to work with. A little creative math made it manageable. When all the measures are converted to ounces, it becomes apparent that they divisible by 8. Doing that reduces it to 16 – 18 servings. Tiding up the recipe gave this:

Charleston Rum Punch (1/8 recipe)

16 oz   brandy                              8 oz black tea
8  oz    rum, light or dark             6 oz strained fresh lemon juice
2  oz    peach brandy                    5 oz 3:1 sugar syrup
[2 oz    curaco or maraschico]      20-24 oz  club soda

Notes: I used the peach liquor made a couple of months back for this component, although peach brandy is readily available in our ABC stores. The tea was brewed with loose leaf Earl Grey. Six ounces of lemon juice is what I got from squeezing three lemons. The sugar syrup amount comes from David Embury’s drink ratio of 8:2:1 – base liquor:modifying substance:sugar syrup. He makes a 3 parts sugar to 1 part water syrup. One cup of sugar dissolved in 1/3 cup water gives about 7 ounces, enough for this plus a little extra for the next night’s drinks.

The result was pretty good. Without the club soda, it tasted like an alcoholic iced tea. We packed up the punch base along with our newly designated portable punch bowl and headed to a get together with some friends. I added soda water and lemon slices just before serving. The water tamed the alcohol a bit and gave a nice spritz. The punch seemed to be well received. Two people in particular enjoyed it and their attention was much appreciated. – Cheers