Here’s a fabulous fall infusion that’s ideal for twilight cocktail hours. Smokey whiskey, infused with sour cherries, fresh ginger and warm cloves, becomes something intoxicating far beyond just the alcoholic kick. Enjoy this autumn sipper alongside a romantic dinner date or night with the girls… or if you prefer, kicking back in Gramma’s rocking chair while the cool rain pitter-patters outside your window. This drink warms you through and through.
When I first came up with this recipe, fresh cherries were still in season, but you’d be lucky to find them now at the local farmers market. Instead, use frozen cherries from the grocery store (just get them organic!), and thaw them gently in the fridge or on the countertop before using them in the recipe. The cherries are cooked down with a bit of cane sugar and water to bring out their rich, plump sugars, and then added to fresh ginger, orange peels and whole cloves for incredible, warm and spicy flavors.
Choose your favorite whiskey for this, as ultimately, no matter how good an infusion is, if it isn’t made with a liquor you personally prefer, it won’t get you jazzed. I go for the Canadian Whiskeys, which are lighter, crispier and a bit maple-hued, and I find they work beautifully with the autumn flavors of this infusion.
Reminiscent of a Scandinavian Christmas grog, the finished infusion has hints of holiday spice, citrus and honey. It’s best served chilled with a fresh garnish of orange peel and whiskey-soaked cherry. Enjoy.
Spicy Autumn Cherry-Ginger Whiskey Infusion
Makes about 3 cups
1 cup halved, pitted cherries
½ cup raw cane sugar
3 thick slices (about 1-inch) raw ginger root
1 medium orange, peeled, white pith removed
½ teaspoon whole cloves
1 (750 mL) bottle whiskey
Combine cherries and sugar in a medium saucepan; cover with just enough water to coat bottom of pan, about ½ cup total. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook until cherries are very soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Remove from heat; stir in ginger, orange peel and cloves. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Transfer cherry mixture to a large mason jar; pour whiskey carefully into jar. Mix gently and close. Store in a cool, dry place for 1 to 3 weeks, depending on desired concentration of flavors. Not sure if it’s done to your liking? Taste it; if not potent enough, let the mixture sit a few more days.
Strain mixture well into a separate mason jar or original whiskey bottle, pressing out excess liquid from cherries and peels (save soaked cherries for a spiked snack to go with cocktail hour!). Store sealed in the freezer for up to a few months.