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Sour Cherry Liqueur


It’s officially sour cherry season! I got my first quart at the market today, and I simply can’t wait to turn them into this lovely aperitif. Originally posted last July, sour cherry liqueur is back!

Want to do something awesomely cool and really flippin’ easy along with me? Make sour cherry liqueur. It’s the height of sour cherry season, and markets are bursting with those tart little bubbles of juice. The season’s pretty short: I was thinking of hitting up a u-pick next week to get some sour cherries out in the countryside for cheap, but they said they’ll be gone by Sunday. So grab some now, like, now now, and put them to use in a way that’ll keep well into the fall.


My dear friend Dellie had D and me over for an early Thanksgiving dinner last November, and her mother served this liqueur as an aperitif. I was totally blown away: it was sweet, very sweet, but also tart and zingy. It tasted strongly and distinctly of sour cherries, and sipping it sent waves of summer nostalgia down my spine. I sauntered into the kitchen where I found the always-graceful Mrs. S pulling a whole turkey out of the oven to rest. What better time to bother someone for a recipe? She said to come knocking again when it was sour cherry season, and she’d give me the rundown. Unlike most other things, I didn’t forget this promise, and last week, I emailed Mrs. S begging her recipe. She graciously obliged, and her instructions were so thorough that I can easily share them with you. Granted, you won’t be tasting the fruits of your labor until the fall — but if you feel like preserving some of summer’s bounty in this unusual way, I can promise that your patience will be well-rewarded.

That's a knife jutting out of the pitcher -- I used it to stir the stuff, and I did fill it to the top after taking the pic.

That's a knife jutting out of the pitcher -- I used it to stir the stuff, and I did fill it to the top after taking the pic.

Update! I’ve stirred (and tasted) the sour cherry liqueur twice now, and it is freakin’ amazing!

Sour Cherry Liqueur
adapted from Mrs. S’s recipe

For this recipe, you will need a crock of some sort: Mrs. S’s crocks are salt-glazed antique crocks made in central Va. over 100 years ago, for preserving & storing foods. I’m not that fancy; I just used a relatively large ceramic pitcher. You can use anything that is dark glass or ceramic of some similar sort.


The quantities used really depend on the size of your crock, so the instructions below are in proportions instead of absolute amounts.


Cherries: clean & pit the cherries, except that for every cup of cherries, leave about 1/8 of the cup unpitted (adds character & depth to the liqueur)
Sugar: use about 3/4 cup sugar for every cup of cherries (cherries should be tightly packed). I used organic cane sugar, but white sugar is just fine. In fact, I can’t promise that my cane sugar will work — I just assumed. Here’s hoping!


Fill the crock 1/2 – 2/3 full of cherries & sugar (in proportions above), and stir. Then fill to the brim with white rum, and stir. Cover tightly with plastic wrap (using a rubber band to secure it) and foil (to shut out light), and store in a dark, cool place. Stir with a wooden or plastic non-reactive spoon about once a week. The sugar may take about a month or so to fully dissolve. Taste from time to time: cherries that are very sour may require additional sugar once the first batch has dissolved completely.


It should be ready mid-September. The cherries will have lost much of their color, and the sugar will have all dissolved. The flavor should be pretty rich. You can pour into decorative (dark glass) bottles and cork, but leave a few pitted cherries in each bottle. The “extra” cherries are great on pound cake, over ice cream, or however you would use canned cherries.

You could add cinnamon sticks, if you like, but Mrs. S likes the purity and simplicity of cherries.

So pack your crocks and get ready to wait — let’s do this thing!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aliza S. July 7, 2009,

    Sour cherry season is over for us out here in CA! I can’t believe it! I will have to make it next year.

  • Bethany July 9, 2009,

    Amazing idea! Picked up sour cherries at the Penn Quarter farmer’s market today, and will be starting the liqueur tomorrow!

  • Laura July 18, 2009,

    I’m making this, too! I got a recipe from one of my mother’s friends. She tells me it is traditional to serve it with honey cake on the High Holidays in the fall.

    This is so cool, like a high school science experiment.

  • Alejandra July 19, 2009,

    I’m going to make this! I have a ton of sour cherries in the fridge that i just bought from the farmer’s market. Can’t wait to give it a shot!

  • Ramona July 28, 2009,

    I LOVE sour cherries. And even though I don’t drink alcohol, I have to make liqueur for all the rest of the (grown ups) family. I always use the coarse kind of sugar we call ‘Kandis’ here in Germany. And I add a vanilla bean to the mix to give it a little twist.

  • Kathy June 13, 2010,

    Twenty years ago, I was introduced to homemade cherry liquer when I was served a slice of pie I will never forget! After making cherry liquer, my friend pitted the cherries and used them to bake a pie! Instead of cornstarch, she thickened it with tapioca. Beware! This pie has a kick, but it is awesome served with vanilla ice cream on a hot summer afternoon.

  • Julia June 20, 2010,

    Thanks Riv for reposting this! I meant to make this last year and ran out of time – just finished up 2 batches and can’t wait to see how they turn out! Thank you!!!

  • Amy July 16, 2010,

    Ever since I bought a bottle of Guignolet in France on a whim I have been searching for a recipe to make it (since Guignolet is not imported to the US). None of the “Guignolet” recipes sounded right (they said to use red wine?!) so I started searching for cherry liqueur instead. Thank you so much for posting the recipe! I think between your recipe and another I found online, I might be close to finding the combination. We were able to pick sour cherries (for $1/lb) and I have 17 pounds to play with. I noticed your recipe uses rum. I’m using vodka so I’m curious if there will be a difference in the flavor so I might make some with rum too. Anyway, thanks again for the great post. Looking forward to September!

  • KMD August 26, 2010,

    What are these lovely moresels and where can you by them? I have only had hte preserves. Do regualr cherries fit the bill? I could not locate them at whole foods either. Looking for some high holiday dishes for this year…already looking for something better than the old duds for RH desserts…Puts me in a great mood reading your site, and yet again today!