A few weeks ago Alex Fletcher of The People's Last Stand made us a proper piña colada that any manly-man would be proud to order. While it didn't come with a colorful paper umbrella, there was a delicate purple flower along with a pineapple wedge and cherry atop the glass.
Today's focus is on that cherry. Because while the piña colada was great, that dark cherry was sumptuous. Fletcher pulled it out of a mason jar he keeps behind the bar, one of the many from-scratch ingredients he uses at his cocktail den.
Bright pink maraschino cherries are amusing for kids, but as our palates became more refined, so do our good senses.
As part of a classic cocktail, Maraschino cherries were used to impart a bit of sweetness to drinks like the Old Fashioned. But over time the liquor-soaked fruit became more of a science project on longevity and florescent color. Now, as the throwback cocktail movement spreads from bar to bar across the city, it's more common to see the house-made variety.
Cherries are in season, so it's a great time to grab a bag or seven and follow Fletcher's advice, below, on how to add a dollop of succulence to your drink.
Fletcher uses a more traditional approach with Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, but emphasizes that you can use "whatever spirit you like depending on the flavor profile you're looking for." There are rum cherries, vodka cherries, bourbon cherries and so on. Some recipes suggest leaving the pits in the cherries, as they impart a certain flavor, but if you have a fancy cherry pitter then you can be fancy.
The People's Last Stand Maraschino Cherries
Ingredients: 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup water 1 cup Luxardo 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1 tablespoon orange zest 1 cinnamon stick 1 pinch fresh nutmeg 3 cloves 1/2 tablespoon of cracked black pepper 1 vanilla bean, split 1 pound of cherries, pitied (see note below)
To Prepare: Bring all ingredients to a boil until they start to thicken, lower heat to a simmer and add cherries for 5-7 minutes and transfer liquid and cherries into a mason jar and place in the fridge until cool.
Note: If you can find them, use Marasca cherries, which are a bitter variety originally from northern parts of Italy and Hungary, but can now be found in Oregon.