The cherry is a fruit well-associated with the nation’s first president, even if the cherry tree story, in which a young George Washington chopped down a cherry tree then couldn’t lie about it to his father, is fictitious.
Turns out there are at least some fact-based tales about Washington and the cherry, most involving Washington’s favorite cherry-based beverage: cherry bounce.
Washington is known to have taken the brandy-based cherry drink plus Madeira and port with him in September 1784 on an expedition across the Allegheny Mountains. The drink was a favorite of the Washingtons, and an original recipe for it that was written in unidentified handwriting was later found in a pocket-sized memo book that had belonged to Martha Washington.
In celebration of Mount Vernon’s upcoming exhibit Hoecakes & Hospitality: Cooking With Martha Washington, Mount Vernon made a test batch of the brandy-based drink. The exhibit, which opens February 18, will feature this plus many other Washington culinary favorites.
Instead of using Martha’s recipe, we made the beverage using an adaptation that will appear in the upcoming book Dining With the Washingtons, which will be released around November 1. This coffee table cookbook about the food served at the General’s table includes rich photography, essays and modern-day recipes for favorite Washington dishes. Get a sneak preview with the below recipe for cherry bounce.
Makes about 3 quarts
10 to 11 pounds fresh sour cherries, preferably Morello, or 3 jars (1 pound, 9 ounce) preserved Morello cherries
4 cups brandy
3 cups sugar, plus more as needed
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
2 to 3 cloves
1 (1/4 inch) piece fresh whole nutmeg
1) Pit the cherries, cut them in half, and put them in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, carefully mash the fruit to extract as much juice as possible. Strain the juice through a large fine-mesh strainer, pressing the fruit with a sturdy spoon. (You should have about 8 cups.) Reserve the mashed cherries in the freezer or refrigerator for later use. If using jarred cherries, drain the fruit and set the juice aside before halving and mashing the cherries. Add any pressed juice to the reserved jarred juice.
2) In a lidded 1-gallon glass jar, combine the juice with the brandy and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover with the lid, and set aside in the refrigerator for 24 hours, occasionally stirring or carefully shaking the jar.
3) Bring 2 cups of the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Taste the sweetened juice and add more sugar, if desired. Stir the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg. Then cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Strain, and discard the spices.
4) Stir the spiced juice back into the 1-gallon glass jar with the reserved sweetened juice. Cover loosely with the lid and set aside for at least 2 weeks before serving, occasionally shaking the jar with care.
5) Serve at room temperature in small cordial or wine glasses. Store the remaining cherry bounce in the refrigerator.