Firecracker Cherry Bourbon

At the last Collingswood Food Swappers event, on Saturday, March 8th, I made an infused bourbon exlir that everyone who tasted it raved about it!  The bourbon was infused with dried cherries and jalapenos then mixed with a  brown sugar simple syrup that was infused with cinnamon, cloves, candied ginger, more dried cherries, and star anise.  I strained the syrup and added it to the strained bourbon.  It wasn't hard to make nor did it take very long, other than planning ahead and getting the bourbon started with a bag of cherries and handful of very hot jalapeno pepper, for about a month of infusing.
My drink offerings in my "new" vintage tool caddy.
The idea for this flavoring came from a few sources.  Years ago we had a dear friend named, Sally Weida.  She loved having a jar of apricots and cherries soaked in either Southern Comfort or brandy.  For holidays, I made her a batch.  By the time you got to the end of the jar and ate the last of the apricots and cherries, you would be tipsy.  The fruit was potent!  Another friend, Jen, somehow though of the idea to put jalapenos into bourbon to give it a spicy kick.  I tucked this idea away into my brain to make into a cocktail.

When I dreamed up the idea to do our last swap as a Spirits and Cocktail Party food and beverage event, I knew I wanted to combine the two flavors into one delicious drink.  Taking the drink one step further, I started thinking about limoncello and other sweet cordials.  Reading  about other whiskey or bourbon inspired drinks then lead me to a story about a home-made Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey concoction.  Hence the name of my drink, Firecracker Cherry Bourbon.  A new drink is born! 

The bottles I bought were from, the vintage style apothecary bottle, 8.5 ounces (which later I realized was TOO BIG!), along with plastic topper cork stoppers. To add to the vintage look I printed my labels on round craft paper labels from AVERY.  I also made ingredient tag labels which I tied to the bottles.  One final touch was using the plastic protector toppers that are slipped onto the bottles tops then shrink wrapped closed using a hair dryer.

This was a rather fancy and expensive beverage swap item.  I'm not sure of the final cost, but I'm thinking these cost me about $5 a bottle once I was done.  Would I do it again? Yes. But next time, I'll think about ways I can cut back on the expenses and do this in larger quantities.  As I was making the final product, I didn't have enough of the mixture to fill all 15 of my bottles and have a sampling bottle.  I had to make more syrup; I had started out with about 3-4 cups of sugar/water.  I also needed more bourbon.  Jack Daniels to the rescue! I sacrificed my stash of Jack to add to the mix.  The other expense was dried cherries.  These are not cheap.  This may become one of my signature drinks though I'm inclined to keep this as a very special give-away.

To make this yourself, you will need the following ingredients and items.  It will take about a month for the flavors of the cherries and jalapenos to infuse into the bourbon/whiskey.  The syrup can me made the day before and then added to the bourbon.  I found that once the simple syrup was added to the bourbon, it needs to be refrigerated and used within 2 months.  The drink can be enjoyed as is, served cold, or over ice, or with a spritz of seltzer added.  My friend, Leanne Lindsay of Tinsel and Tine said it was a powerful elixir.  I think most people who sampled it would agree.  I even had some people comment that it was one of the best things they ever imbibed.  I'm not exaggerating.  Maybe they were but who am I to complain?!

Firecracker Cherry Bourbon Ingredients:
Step 1 Ingredients:
  • 1.75 Liter Bottle of inexpensive Bourbon or Whiskey (don't use the really good stuff, as you're adding flavoring to it. For a fun read on "Low-Shelf" brands, check out this link here!)
  • 2 Cups Unsweetened Dried Cherries
  • 2 - 3 Jalapeno Peppers - cut into strips.  For spicy flavor, keep the ribs and seeds in; for milder flavor, remove the ribs and seeds
  • Large Glass Jar - about 2 quart size or larger with a tight fitting lid

Step 2 Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Cup Candied Ginger Pieces - kept whole
  • 5 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 5 Star Anise Seeds - in their star-shapped pods
  • 1 Tablespoon Whole Cloves
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cherries
  • 3 Cups Organic Cane Sugar or Turbinado Sugar
  • 3 Cups Cold Water
  • 3 or 4 Quart Sauce Pot
  • Spatula
  • Strainer
  • 1 Gallon Container
  • 1 Funnel or Measuring cup to pour into bottles
  • 12 - 6 ounce Glass Bottles, with stoppers to decant into

  1. Add the dried cherries to the bottom of a clean, large glass jar. Add in the cleaned and sliced jalapeno peppers.  If you want a really spicy drink, you can leave the seeds and ribs on the jalapenos. For a milder drink, remove the seeds and ribs.  Work carefully with the jalapenos, and either wear food safety gloves or wash your hands immediately in cool water with a lot of soap after having handled the peppers.  Carefully pour in the 1.75 liter bottle of bourbon over the cherries and peppers.  Put the lid on the jar and put the jar in a cool dark place.  
  2. After about a week, check on the bourbon. The cherries will have plumped up and the jalapenos will appear to have pickled.  You can remove the jalapenos at this point, or keep them in the bourbon for another week.  In either case, remove the jalapenos after 2 weeks, as they will have given off a lot of their flavor and heat.  Reserve the "pickled" jalapenos for some other use, such as using in a corn bread or in salsas.  The jalapenos will be potent with booze so use them carefully!
  3. Let the cherries steep in the bourbon for up to 1 month, then strain the bourbon into another clean glass jar through a fine mesh strainer.  Reserve the bourbon macerated cherries for some other use, such as cocktails, cakes, in a pie filling, you name it. These too will be powerfully potent, so don't feed them to children or anyone who can't have alcohol. 
  4. Once the bourbon has steeped for a month it's time to make the simple syrup.  In a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot add in the 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water.  To this add the candied ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise seeds and whole cloves.  Also add in a new batch of dried cherries.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  You want to dissolve the sugar into the water and let the spices steep into the syrup, flavoring the syrup as it cooks and then cools.  
  5.  Keep the mixture at a bare simmer for 1 hour to infuse it with the spices.  Remove from the heat and let cool with the spices still in the syrup. Once the mixture is cool, strain it carefully through a fine mesh strainer twice, to remove all the spices and any sediment.  Discard the spice and if you are so inclined, you can re-use the dried cherries, but strain them from the final product.
  6. Pour the flavored syrup into a large glass jar or container, about a gallon sized jar will be good.  Pour in the infused and strained bourbon. Gentle stir the mixture to combine then decant it into smaller clean bottles.  Seal and refrigerate.  Serve cold. Mixture will keep for 2 months, refrigerated.
  7. Makes 1 dozen 6 ounce portions, give or take...


Popular Posts