What a strange winter this is. Not one, but TWO polar vortices, sheets of rain, and finding myself grumpier than usual about it. Most winters, I can scurry between house and car and office and car and house and other than deliberate ski trips, stay cozy inside. This winter, however, I have to take the furry guy that takes up most of my Instagram feed out for at least thrice daily walks. Some days, it’s chilly but lovely – the perfect thing to clear your head. Other days (ahem, today) it’s all driving snow and wind and even a Swix hat, Xtra tufs and two base layers can’t keep out the chill.
If I had a fireplace, I would make one of these after making a raging fire and stare off into nothingness for a while. Alas, as my personal fireplace is only in my head, I will have to settle from the internal warmth that comes from bourbon. Back on the bitters train, a Manhattan makes a great vehicle for tinkering. If you are a cherry fan, this one is definitely for you.
Cherry and Sweet Annie Bitters
1 cup sweet cherries, thawed
1/2 cup sour cherries, thawed
1 cup high proof liquor (grain alcohol or unflavored moonshine)
2 tablespoons gentian root (or other bittering herb)
1 tablespoon wild cherry bark
1 tablespoon fenugreek
1 long branch of sweet annie, broken into smaller pieces
2″ cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Mash the thawed cherries and mix with the bittering herbs into the alcohol in half pint or other glass jar with a lid. Toast the spices over medium heat until fragrant, and swirl into the same mix. Top with the sweet annie and infuse for at least three weeks. Shake once daily and start tasting after three weeks or so. My batch was ready at four.
The Sweet Annie really makes these bitters. It’s intensely herbal tasting, but also fragrant. Cherry bitters a lovely, but try to find some if you can. I am lucky to have Sub Edge Farm closeby, and they bring bunches to market in the fall. Desperate? Email me – maybe I’ll even share my stash.
Cherry and Sweet Annie Manhattan
Inspired by the Manhattans at Firebox Restaurant in Hartford, CT
1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce cherry bounce
1 ounce ginjinha
5 drops Cherry and Sweet Annie bitters
Mix the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, or mason jar. If there is no ginjinha to be found, sweet red vermouth will work. Also if you have no cherry bounce (shame on you and make it next year!) – double your bourbon. You could even add a spoonful of cherry jam. Shake – stir – as you see fit. Add ice if you feel like it – this is an easygoing cocktail. Strain into a glass of choice – I alternate between a fancy coupe glass and a plain old Duralex tumbler – and then add bitters. No garnish needed, but a brandied or chipotled cherry would do you just fine. Alas, all I had was a clementine peel.