The phrase “farm to bar” hasn’t caught on as quickly as “farm to table,” but rest assured: the very best cocktails start with top-notch fresh ingredients. The juices, syrups and garnishes are just as important as the booze itself, so we’re constantly appraising our crisper drawers and fruit baskets for cocktail inspiration.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar genius behind Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon, is an eloquent mouthpiece for this movement, and his new cocktail tome, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique ($21; amazon.com), is full of amazing practices for upping your cocktail game. Want to know whether lemons yield more juice when they’re cold versus at room temperature? Consult Morgenthaler. Should you use the same technique to make a rhubarb syrup that you use to make a raspberry syrup? This book has the answer (spoiler: no).
There’s no shortage of recipes that we’re anxious to try, but with a surplus of cherries from this week’s box, we decided to start with the book’s take on Brandied Cherries, perfect for garnishing an Aviation or a Manhattan.
Recipe adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, Chronicle Books (2014)
Yield: Five 1-quart ball jars
5 pounds ripe, firm sweet cherries
½ cup whole juniper berries
½ cup whole allspice berries
6 cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
3 whole star anise
5 cups sugar
8 ounces fresh lemon juice, strained
3 cups water
20 ounces brandy
12 ounces white rum
8 ounces bourbon
Clear away anything that you don’t want to get splattered with cherry juice. It sprays and it stains, even when you’re careful, so wear an old T-shirt. Pull off the stems and punch out the pits with a cherry pitter. (A trick that some cooks use is to put their hands and the pitter inside a very large plastic bag as they pit. The bag will corral much of the juice.)
Heat the oven to 200°. Place five 1 quart canning jars right side up on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 20 minutes; you can turn off the heat and leave them in the oven until ready to use. In a saucepan, simmer the lids in water to cover for 2 minutes and lay them out on paper towels to drain.
Dump the juniper berries, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks and star anise in the center of a double layer of cheesecloth and tie into a secure bundle. Fill a large stockpot about one-third full of water and bring to a boil. This will be your water bath for canning the cherries.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, lemon juice, and the 3 cups water in another large stockpot, at least 10 quarts. Bring to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. Add the spice bundle, and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cherries, stopping when the pot is about half full; you’ll be adding another 5 cups of liquid and you’ll need to be able to stir the cherries without them spilling out. (You might need to cook the cherries in two or three batches.)
Using the slotted spoon, stir and fold the cherries onto themselves so that they are all soaked in the syrup and are getting thoroughly warmed. You don’t want to actually cook the cherries, just let them absorb the syrup. Return the liquid to a simmer; pour in the brandy, rum and bourbon; and stir to mix. When the liquid is heated through, take the pot off the heat. (Be sure not to boil the liquid because you don’t want to cook off too much alcohol.)
Using a wide-mouth funnel or jar filler and a slotted spoon, pack each canning jar with cherries, filling it to the top. Give the jar a good tap on the counter to settle the fruit so there are minimal air gaps. Ladle the hot syrup into the jars up to about ½ inch from the rim. Place the flat part of the lid on the jar, and screw the band on lightly.
Add the next batch of cherries to the hot syrup remaining in the pot and heat the cherries through. Transfer to jars, top with syrup, and seal the jars.
When all the jars are filled and the lids are on, put the jars into the boiling water bath in batches, as many as will fit without crowding. The water should cover the jars by about 1 inch, so top off with more boiling water if necessary. Boil for 5 minutes, and then retrieve the jars. Set them on the counter to cool and let the seals form properly. You’ll hear a nice pop as the vacuum forms and the lid is sucked down. Tighten the rings of all the jars that have sealed properly. You can store these at room temperature, away from heat and light, for up to 1 year.
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