Cane & Table Brings Back Cherry Bounce

Martha Washington isn’t usually associated with drinking, but the first First Lady whipped up a boozy treat that George Washington brought along on his first survey of America. The recipe for that fruity drink, cherry bounce, survived—the recipe exists at Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, where Cane & Table bartender Nick Detrich came across it.

“Part of Cane & Table’s philosophy is looking back at building the drinking culture of the Americas, which includes cherry bounce,” Detrich says. “Cherry bounce has a solid place in American history, as well as the development of drinking culture. There’s really no commercial product available anymore, but it played such a vital role for so long.”

Detrich notes that cherry bounce “migrated south and was a big part of the Southern tradition of pickling, preserving, jamming. It kept being pushed further north as shipping progressed.” He started to play around with Washington's recipe before Cane & Table opened, and made some tweaks. “I started pulling back the spices a little bit, and letting the cherries step forward a little bit more,” he said. “I just struck cinnamon completely.”

To make it, Detrich combines 10 pounds of pitted Morello cherries and a quart of 151 rum. The rum and cherries sit for four to six weeks in Cane & Table’s hot attic, a period of time that depends on how hot it is—”when it's really hot out, everything infuses a great deal faster (four weeks), but in the winter we let it sit for longer.” He also shakes the mixture every one to two days “to disturb it a little and move things around.” 

A day before bottling the bounce, Detrich adds three cloves and a piece of nutmeg (“wrap it in a towel and hit it with a hammer to break it up, so it’s easier to strain than grated nutmeg”) then let it sit for 24 hours. Detrich strains the bounce through a cheesecloth and squeezes the cherries to get all the rum out. Then he makes a turbinado sugar syrup (two parts sugar to one part water), takes two parts rum and one part sugar syrup, then bottles it.

The cherry bounce can last a while—”the aromatics start to dissipate after about a year, but it’s good for a really long time,” Detrich says. “Store it in a cool, dark place; it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but you can keep it the same way you keep pickles or jam.” 

Detrich says that cherry bounce was traditionally sipped after dinner or as a cordial, but since Cane & Table is a cocktail bar, he’s focused on incorporating it into drinks. It’s a pretty versatile ingredient—on the current menu, the Smoak & Plank is a mezcal sour with cherry bounce and spices, while during Tales of the Cocktail in July, he served a rum, vermouth, cherry bounce and Blackstrap bitters blend. It also works in a Manhattan, either by adding a half ounce of cherry bounce “to make it richer and add big fruit notes,” or using it as the base spirit instead of whiskey.

He says that cherry bounce is not a straight substitute for maraschino liqueur, which is “distilled from fruit pits and is a lot lighter and more floral,” but cherry bounce “works more often in stirred drinks instead of shaken; it’s rich and dense. You can use it in some of the same applications for maraschino in stirred drinks, like an improved gin cocktail or a gin old fashioned—with maraschino it’s fantastic for sipping in the summertime, but subbing in cherry bounce makes it great for fall or winter.”

I love this, Amy. If I start soon (and can find some decent cherries: a challenge) we can have cherry bounce in several ways for Thanksgiving. Its versatility is very attractive. Also…the name is a seller.

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