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Boozy Sour Cocktail Cherries

Choose your own spirits to add to your preserved sour cherries!
Servings: 3 Pints


  • 3 Pint, 6 Half-pint, or 12 Quarter-pint Mason Jars, or a mixture thereof, sterilized and warm, with clean rims, and new lids
  • Canning Equipment: Large Canning Pot, Metal Rack, Tongs, Funnel, Ladle
  • Cherry Pitter
  • Heavy Bottomed Non-Reactive Pot and spoon for making syrup


  • 6 cups Sour Cherries stemmed and pitted
  • 2 1/4 cups Sugar
  • 3 3/4 cups Water
  • 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice [bottled is acceptable]
  • 3/4 cup Spirits [I use Bourbon or Rye]
  • 6-8 OPTIONAL: Cinnamon Sticks [2 for the boil, 4-6 for the jars. I divide the sticks into halves for the half-pint jars and thirds for the quarter-pint jars.]


  • Sterilize the mason jars and warm the lids. [I like to keep my sterilized jars in a slightly warm oven so that when they are filled with the hot liquid, they do not suffer shock.]
  • Clean, stem and pit the cherries.
  • In a pot over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, maple syrup, and lemon juice, and 2 cinnamon sticks [optional].
  • Stir this mixture hard until the sugar dissolves and then bring up to a gentle boil.
  • Add the cherries to the pot, bring to a simmer and simmer on low for 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove the boiled cinnamon sticks from the liquid and compost.
  • Add 1/8 to a 1/4 cup spirits and 1 fresh cinnamon stick to each pint jar, 1/16 to 1/8 cup spirit and 1/2 cinnamon stick to each half-pint jar, or 1 tbs spirits and 1/3 cinnamon stick to each quarter-pint jar. [Cinnamon sticks are optional.]
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the cherries from the syrup, and pack them into the jars fairly firmly but without crushing, leaving about 3/4 in headspace in the top.
  • Top the jars with the remaining sugar-syrup, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace at the top of each jar. [1/4 inch is find for the quarter-pint jars.]
  • At this point, if you don't want to properly can your cherries in a boiling water bath, allow them to sit on a counter and cool. Then, refrigerate for two weeks before opening. Consume within 6-8 weeks after opening.
  • Seal the jars with lids and rims and process in the boiling water bath for 25 minutes. [20 minutes is fine for the quarter-pint jars.]
  • Take the top off of the canning bath, turn off the heat, and leave the jars to sit in the canner for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove the jars upright from the canner, place on wire racks or a protected surface, and allow to cool completely. Check for a good seal on the lid. Gently remove screw caps. Wipe and dry the jars and replace the rims [not too tightly.]
  • Label and store in a cool dark place. Leave the jars for at least 2 weeks before sampling. Properly canned, they will last for 1-2 years on the shelf before opening. Once opened, store in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks.


You may have syrup left over after filling your jars. Enjoy it in a glass of seltzer or a mixed drink!
The liquid in the jars will be boiling and bubbly once removed from the canner. As the jars cool, the bubbles should dissipate.
You may see a bit of settling in one or many jars. This is normal. As long as you provided the right amount of headspace at the outset of canning, and as long as the cans have sealed properly, you should be fine! Fruit above the liquid mark may darken slightly. However, this should have no effect on the taste or consistency. You may wish to consume the settled jars first. A good rule of thumb with canning is to err on the side of caution. Put that jar in the fridge and use it first, give it as a gift to friends and tell them to do the same, or combine and reprocess as set out below.
Within 24 hours of canning, if the fruit has settled more than desired, you may re-can in smaller jars or combine cherries in jars, re-seal, and re-process. You may have to make a bit more hot syrup to top the cherries properly to reach the required headspace. But that’s easily done. When re-canning, warm the fruit in its syrup, place in warm sterilized jars with new warm lids. Reprocess for 15-20 minutes + 5 minute cool. Your cherries may be slightly mushier after a second bath. But I’ve done this with some success, and none the wiser.
This recipe follows the general instructions in the Bernadin guide to canning cherries in syrup.