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Atomic cherries and cherry moonshine for your midsummer tipsy

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Cherries and moonshine are a match made in heaven's pub

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about making your own moonshine at home. Needless to say, I got more than a few emails about that one, mostly from family and friends wondering if perhaps we were doing homemade Christmas gifts this year (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

But I also got an email from the folks at Clawhammer, who manufacture moonshine stills, with a couple of seasonal moonshine recipes they thought I'd like to try out. And boy, were they right.

They introduced me to atomic cherries, which are exactly what they sound like: booze-soaked wonder-berries for your favorite fruity cocktails or a quick nip to curb your sweet tooth and have a nightcap at the same time.

I adapted Clawhammer's cherry-infused moonshine for my own version. It will yield a strong liquor with a hint of sweet cherry flavor — but with enough alcohol to make Shirley Temple blush.

More: Shirley Temple mojito: For all you good girls who grew up to love rum

Even if you live in an area where distilling your own liquor is illegal, you can often still find legally distilled moonshine at your local liquor store. And hey, if worse comes to worst, vodka works just fine too.

Atomic cherries recipe

Cherries and moonshine are a match made in heaven's pub
Image: Heather Barnett/SheKnows

Adapted from Clawhammer

If you'd like flavored atomic cherries, experiment with adding spices and aromatics. For a kick, apple pie-spiced liquor is a good addition. You could also go with vanilla and chocolate flavors. Use your imagination.

Prep time: 20 minutes | Inactive time: 24-plus hours | Total time: 24 hours 20 minutes-plus

Ingredients:

  • Fresh cherries*
  • Moonshine (or vodka)*

Directions:

  1. Stem the cherries. (The stems can make the cherries bitter.)
  2. Score or pit the cherries. To score them, use a paring knife to create a slit around the hemisphere of the cherry (the stone should stop the knife from going all the way through). Use this method if you plan to have the cherries around for a while. You'll have to be careful of the stones when you use them, but the flesh won't break down as fast. If you plan to use them within a couple of weeks, you can pit them and not have to worry about the stones.
  3. Stuff the cherries into a sterilized Mason or other glass jar with an airtight lid. Try to pack them well without squashing them. Leave about an inch of headspace at the top.
  4. Cover the cherries with moonshine, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. If you're using additional flavors, make sure you account for those when filling the jar so you don't overfill it.
  5. Place the cherries in the refrigerator, and leave them for at least 24 hours. They're at their peak at a week in the fridge, but you can leave them longer since they're covered with alcohol (no water bath needed). Just make sure you only score the cherries if you plan to go longer than a couple of weeks.
  6. Serve them the same way you would maraschino cherries (adults only!). You can also pull out a few, freeze them on a greased sheet pan and pop them into a plastic freezer bag once they're frozen. And don't just throw out the liquor. It's still completely usable.
*Quantities of ingredients and results vary depending on how much you want to make and the size of your jar.

Cherry-infused moonshine recipe

Cherries and moonshine are a match made in heaven's pub
Image: Heather Barnett/SheKnows

Adapted from Clawhammer's recipe for blackberry moonshine.

If you decide you want more cherry flavor, add more cherry juice to the simple syrup. If you want the booze sweeter, add more simple syrup to the jar. If you want it stronger, back off the simple syrup, and use more moonshine. You can also add spices and flavorings like star anise vanilla and more. Adjust it to your preferences.

Prep time: 35 minutes | Inactive time: 24-plus hours | Total time: 24 hours 35 minutes-plus

Ingredients:

  • Fresh cherries, pitted and stemmed*
  • Cherry simple syrup (recipe below)*
  • Citrus zest (any fruit, I used lemon and lime)
  • Moonshine (or vodka)*

Directions:

  1. Stuff the cherries into a sterilized Mason or other glass jar with an airtight lid. Try to pack them well without squashing them. Leave about an inch of headspace at the top.
  2. Shove in about two 1-inch pieces of citrus per cup of cherries. Make sure there isn't too much pith on it, or that could make it too bitter.
  3. Cover the cherries with 3 parts moonshine and 4 parts simple syrup, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. Put the lid on the jar, and gently shake to combine.
  4. Place the cherries in the refrigerator, and leave them for at least 24 hours. They're at their peak at a week in the fridge, but you can leave them longer since they're covered with alcohol (no water bath needed).
  5. When you're ready to drink your cherry moonshine, strain it into a bowl. You can discard the citrus zest, but you may as well keep the cherries. They're perfectly edible and make a great garnish.
*Quantities of ingredients and results vary depending on how much you want to make and the size of your jar.

Cherry simple syrup recipe

Make as much of this as you think you need to make your cherry moonshine. The leftover (if any) can be refrigerated for up to two weeks and used in cocktails, sodas and more.

Yields about 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed cherry juice

Directions:

  1. Put everything into a saucepan, and bring it up to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, remove from the heat, and allow it to cool completely before using.
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