Sometimes life hands you lemons, Boozers. Or, in our case, cherries that were more sour than sweet, leaving us in a bit of a quandary. So we did the only thing we could think of in such a dire situation: threw them in a jar with some sugar and vinegar and forgot about them for a few days in the refrigerator. Voilà — pickled cherries. But more importantly, pickled cherry juice, a tasty base for a wicked summer cocktail.
We have fond childhood memories of cooling off in the July sunshine with an icy cold bottle of Cheerwine, the cultish cherry soda pop from North Carolina. Popping the top of the bottle brought a sudden spray of fizzy goodness that seemed to drop the outside temperature by 20 degrees. Nothing could be finer.
Our Wicked Cherry Pop starts off with a pickled cherry syrup, enhanced by pickled cherries muddled in unaged white whiskey. The effect, when topped off with carbonated water, is oh-so-wicked, a cherry pop for grown-ups that you may want to disguise in an old Cheerwine bottle while you’re flipping burgers at Grandma’s family picnic. It’ll be our little secret.
Wicked Cherry Pop
Unaged white whiskey is not your momma’s moonshine, but a good white whiskey has a smooth flavor with a bit of a kick and never leaves your throat raw; our personal local favorite is Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit, but there are many white whiskeys across the country now, including Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, Wasmund’s Rye Spirit, and Death’s Door White Whisky. We like to use it in place of tequila for a twist on a margarita, and it balances well with the pickled cherries here to provide a sweet-and-sour counterpoint.
2 tablespoons pickled cherry syrup (recipe below)
4 or 5 pickled cherries
fresh herb (you could use a few leaves of fresh mint — we used pineapple sage)
1.5 ounces unaged white whiskey
chilled club soda
Make the pickled cherry syrup: Okay, first you have to pickle the cherries, which, as we described above, is quite easy. Just halve about a cup of cherries, discarding the pits, throw them in a jar, add about a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar (more if you want it sweeter), and cover with vinegar (white, red wine, or apple cider vinegar will all work here). Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few days, shaking the jar occasionally. Then strain off the pickling juice into a small saucepan, add a 1/2 cup sugar, and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes or so. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
To assemble the Wicked Cherry Pop: Put the pickled cherry syrup, pickled cherries, and a few leaves of fresh herb into the bottom of a Collins glass. Add the white whiskey and muddle lightly. Top with ice and chilled club soda and stir briskly before serving.