In my last post, I talked a bit about my ever-ambitious summer to-do list. One of the items that makes a perennial appearance on that list is making my own brandied cherries for cocktails.
Have I ever actually managed to do it? No. Is it hard? No. Is it time-consuming? Only as long as it takes to pit a critical mass of cherries. THIS year though, I’m feeling optimistic about my chances of finally crossing it off my list.
This recipe was a good warm-up round because I made a cherry syrup from scratch which required pitting one cup of cherries and letting them simmer with sugar and water until the syrup was a deep ruby red with a rich cherry flavour.
If you are partial to a bourbon or whiskey sour, this is a great seasonal upgrade to that classic.
In the Summer of 2010, nearly 10 years ago now, which is crazy to think about, I was a bit more successful in crossing items off my bucket list. That year I graduated from undergrad with a Bachelor of Journalism with Combined Honours in Women’s Studies and then headed off to work as a radio journalist in Rwanda for three months.
In Rwanda, I worked in a trilingual newsroom, reporting and announcing the news in English, while my colleagues told the same stories in French and Kinyarwanda. While I was there, I went to see the endangered mountain gorillas in the mountain range that borders Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I had not seen and have not since seen rain like I witnessed in Rwanda. The skies would open and a torrent of water would come pouring down. Imagine standing in a waterfall, basically that.
In 2010, the cost for a permit to gain entry to Virunga National Park, as a tourist was $500 USD per person. As luck would have it, the night before we were set to trek into the rainforest to catch a glimpse of the majestic mountain gorillas, the rain came down in sheets, all night. When we woke in the morning, the precipitation had mercifully subsided into a mist.
With our guides and tour group, we began to scale the mountain, the forest floor was indiscernible as the bush was so dense that we were walking on foliage the entire time, with our leader hacking out a path with a machete. We were walking uphill and our footing was unsure, even in hiking boots, as the “ground” and foliage we were stepping on was slick from the downpour the night before.
Thankfully, we only had to trek for an hour before we came across the gorillas. It was surreal to stand mere feet away from a silverback, with its imposing physical presence and raw power. We saw a little family of gorillas nuzzling their infant and another adolescent male posing for us. We got to spend an hour with the gorillas before wee made our descent back to the village.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
While I’m not sure I’ll get to do something quite as awe-inspiring this summer, I am hoping to get away on vacation in September and discover some place new.
In the meantime, I’ll be sipping on this delicious Cherry Bourbon Sour and making the most of local, seasonal produce!
Cherry Bourbon Sour
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz cherry syrup
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1 egg white
- 2 dashes celery bitters
- 1 cherry, pitted, for garnish
- 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously without ice to start emulsion. Add ice and shake again to chill and thoroughly emulsify. Strain over ice cubes in a Collins glass and garnish with a pitted cherry on a cocktail pick and serve with a paper/metal/glass straw.
Combine cherries, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is a deep ruby red and the syrup has a distinct cherry flavour.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Store in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Cherry syrup will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.