Spiced Brandied Cherries

December 20, 2012

by Margaret Cabaniss


Here’s the thing: Christmas is in five days. Everyone’s entering the home stretch with holiday shopping and baking and decorating and just trying to keep the wheels from falling off before next Tuesday. (If I just described myself and no one else, please don’t tell me.) The last thing you need is another elaborate gift to make; what you probably need is a good stiff drink.

With that in mind, I thought about sharing my old family recipe for homemade eggnog, but Jimmy over at the Book of Jimmy has already done the blogging world a solid by sharing his eggnog adventures and tasting notes, so I’ll just send you over there with my blessing.

Instead, I thought I’d share a recipe for something that works equally well as a last-minute gift for friends or a restorative just for you. These spiced brandied cherries only taste elaborate and fancy; in reality, you can whip them up in five minutes, give them away that afternoon, and be dropping one in your Manhattan by dinnertime. Cheers to that.

I adapted this recipe slightly from the New York Times; the original calls for fresh cherries, but as they aren’t in season now, I use frozen (they’re picked in season and flash-frozen, so the flavor is still plenty good). It also saves you the trouble of pitting them, which makes this recipe even simpler.


What you’ll need:

  • 4 c frozen cherries (I found two 12-oz bags about did the trick), thawed, juices reserved
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 c brandy (don’t worry about getting the good stuff here; any brand’ll do)

Put the sugar and spices in a small saucepan. Add enough water to your reserved cherry juice to equal one cup of liquid and add it to the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes. Off the heat, stir in the brandy and cherries. Let it cool, then store the whole thing in a quart-sized jar in the fridge (or decant into four half-pint jars to give away).


You should technically wait at least two days before sampling them, to give the brandy and spices time to work their magic, but that didn’t stop me from testing one straight away. The cherries will keep at least a few months in the fridge, and their flavor will just keep getting better. I like using them as garnishes in mixed drinks, dropping them (along with a spoonful of syrup) in a glass topped with champagne, spooning them over ice cream… I’m sure you’ll find plenty of uses for them, and any booze hounds cocktail aficionados on your Christmas list will be seriously impressed.

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Ann Waterman 1 Ann December 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Glad to hear these keep for several months. I could make them now when I have the time and totally indulge after this baby comes!


Margaret Cabaniss 2 Margaret Cabaniss December 21, 2012 at 10:28 am

Good thinking, Ann. Always be prepared!


3 Abby December 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm


I am making these! Thank you!!


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