Drunken Cherries

Two of my favorite things: local, sustainably-grown fruit, that I get to pick myself, while spending quality time with my sweetie, on a rare and gorgeous sunny summer day, and… booze. A match made in heaven!

Adapted from Brandied Cherries in The Glass Pantry by Georgeanne Brennan


Drunken Cherries


  • 4 lbs cherries (sweet, tart or sour)
  • 1 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • 1/4 cup filtered water
  • 4 cups brandy, rum, Cointreau, or other liquor


  1. Sterilize 4 glass pint jars and lids (run through the dishwasher, heat in a 250 degree F oven, or submerge in boiling water for 15 minutes). Keep jars hot until ready to fill.
  2. Wash and pit the cherries, reserving about 1/4 of the pits. Transfer 1 lb of cherries to the bowl of a food processor and process until puréed; add to a medium stockpot with water and sugar. Tie the reserved pits into a small square of cheesecloth and add to the stockpot. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, lower heat and cook slowly until a thick syrup forms, about 15 minutes. Stir in the brandy, or other alcohol, and keep on the heat at a very low simmer.
  3. Fill hot jars with pitted cherries; tap down into the jar, but do not tightly pack; leave a generous 1/2-inch of headspace. Pour the cherry syrup-liquor mixture over the cherries, covering the topmost cherries and leaving about a 1/2-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles with the handle of a wooden spoon; adjust headspace with additional liquid if necessary. Wipe rims, affix lids, and screw on the band to fingertip tight. Allow to rest at room temperature until the jars seal. Store in a cool, dark spot for at least 1 month before use.

Yields 4 pints of booze-addled cherries.


  1. What to make with your drunken cherries? Well, drunken cherry pie, of course!
  2. I made two pints with spiced rum and two pints with Cointreau because I did not have any brandy in the house. I’ve since made a pint with amaretto and one with bourbon. You could even check out the local booze distilled by Tuthilltown Spirits. Feel free to experiment!
  3. This recipe does not call for any processing in a boiling water bath; the heat of the syrup should seal the Ball jars, and the alcohol should prevent any spoilage. If you want to be doubly sure, you could process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
  4. The original recipe suggested to pit only 1 lb of the cherries, leaving the other 3 lbs whole, with stems & pits, to sit in the brandy and soak it up. This is probably a nice option if you intend to serve these cherries with drinks; in a fancy martini or a grown up Shirley Temple. As I will more likely add them to salads or roasts, top cakes or tarts, or put on a cheese tray, the pitted-stemmed version seemed much easier. You can do either way.


Store jars for at least 1 month, in a cool dark place, prior to using. Cherries will keep for up to 1 year. Once opened, refrigerate.


Early summer.


  1. I read your post about the pie and was intrigued. This recipe sounds phenomenal and I just wish I saw it back in July when I could do something about it. I’m going to bookmark this, but won’t you please remind me about it next summer? Pretty please? 😀

  2. I promise! I didn’t get to put up any cherries at all this summer, as my local organic cherry farm lost their entire crop due to a late Spring freeze: I will be ALL OVER cherry season next year!

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  4. Thoughts? First batch I tried water bath processing and the syrup inside leaked despite the large amount of head space and got all funny inside. I think I shall re-open to process. The batch that I didn’t hot water bath did not seal… still good?

  5. Hi Onewoman,

    I suspect either your jars or the cherry syrup (or both) were not hot enough at filling; hence the lack of seal on the non-processed jar (there was not enough heat generated inside the jar to create a vaccuum seal) and the boiling over of the processed jar. It should be fine to re-process the batch that did not seal, assuming it’s only been out on the counter for a day or two: pop the jars, drain syrup, re-sterilize the jars and use new lids. Make sure the syrup is at a boil when you add to the jars and that your jars are hot.

    As for the first batch, it’s hard to tell what you mean by the syrup “got all funny.” Is it possible that canner water got back inside of your jars? (This can sometimes happen if the bands on the jars are really loose and the jars themselves leak). If so, I’d say it’s a wash: but you could consider popping the jars, draining the syrup, and re-heating to a boil, reducing off any water that have entered the jars, then re-processing.

    Hope that helps,

  6. Jaclyn

    Hi! I don’t know if this is too late to get a response or not. My local market had a special on pitted sour cherries and I bought several pounds to put up. I came across this recipe and really want to try it! 🙂
    Do you think I could still do this minus the pits? Or is there something else I could do or substitute for those pits?
    Any help is appreciated! Thanks!

  7. Hi Jaclyn,

    The pits here are likely just contributing flavor; they often have a bit of an almond/bitter flavor, so you might try adding 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of almond extract, but I’m sure you’d be fine without it. Pits & seeds are also often added to increase pectin, but in this case, it shouldn’t make much difference as there is no “set” to achieve.

    Hope that helps,

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