I’m so in love with cherries this week. I’ve been eating them for breakfast and as an afternoon snack. I’ve been whirling them with lemon juice in my Cuisinart and cooking them down to a blood-red puree. And I’ve just been admiring a big bowl of them on my kitchen counter. Did I mention I’m in love? And the best thing? My beloved cherries are a ludicrously cheap date this month, going for only a buck a pound at the local produce market.
Until now I hadn’t made too many cocktails with fresh cherries. I think that too often the fresh cherry flavor can get lost in the spirits, or, alternately, that you end up with a drink that’s too sweet and tastes like cherry pop. But tonight I came up with what seems to me the killer app for the fruit: a cherry sidecar.
Friends who come to my house for cocktails know that the Sidecar is my favorite cocktail, bar none, so when I was surfing the web for ideas, I was struck by a recipe I found on the Matt Bites blog. He attempted to re-create a cocktail he had at Hatfield’s, a restaurant in Los Angeles. I tinkered with his recipe a bit more and came up with the following, which, I have to say, I adore. It’s bursting with cherry goodness, yes isn’t too sweet and still has the character of the original classic cocktail. Its only shortcoming is that it requires the patience to leave your cherries and Cognac in the fridge for three days before you can indulge. I used Deau Artisan Cognac, but any decent brandy would probably do.
1 1/2 ounces cherry-infused Cognac (see below)
1/2 ounce Cognac
1/2 ounce cherry puree (see below)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine all in the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (For those who aren’t familiar with “double straining,” this means straining with your usual cocktail strainer, such as a Hawthorn strainer, but also pouring it through a fine-mesh sieve, the better to reduce the number of solid particles in your drink. If you single-strain it, it will still be delightful, but there will likely be a bit of cherry puree residue that collects at the bottom of your glass.) Serve and swoon.
Pit 1/2 pound of cherries. Place the cherry halves in a glass jar with 1 1/2 cups of Cognac. Refrigerate for three days. Strain and discard the cherries.
Pit 3/4 pound of fresh cherries. Combine with 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until soft and the cherries have released much of their juice, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the solids and store the puree in the refrigerator.