These Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries are easy to make and scented with #vanilla and #orange liqueur. They are sure to impress novice and expert mixologists alike! #homecanning #preserves #cocktails

Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries

Scented with vanilla bean and orange liqueur, these Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries are a welcome addition to any home bar or cocktail lover’s gift basket. Make up an easy batch and enjoy a bit of sophistication in your cocktails all year long. 

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links at no additional cost to you. I recommend products because I find them helpful or interesting, and as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.]


These Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries are easy to make and scented with #vanilla and #orange liqueur. They are sure to impress novice and expert mixologists alike! #homecanning #preserves #cocktails

The quickest way for a bartender to get my respect is with a perfectly delicious, obviously homemade or gourmet cocktail cherry in the bottom of my drink.

This recipe for homemade cocktail cherries is a simple one using hot pack preservation. Fresh summer sweet cherries are pitted and packed into half pint jars, then covered with a hot bath of stove top simple syrup scented with vanilla bean. Each jar is topped with bourbon and orange liqueur, then sealed and processed as per normal canning procedures. Honestly, the most time-consuming part is pitting the cherries!

I’ve made a number of variations of these homemade cocktail cherries, but the one here is my absolute favorite. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Jump to Recipe

A pile of fresh sweet cherries spread over a wooden surface. |

Five jars of bright red bourbon soaked cocktail cherries. |

The Joy of Homemade Cocktail Cherries

Whether you are a novice with a cocktail shaker or an expert in mixology, a really good cocktail cherry is your home bar’s best friend. So many classic drinks call for a red cherry garnish – Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, Pina Colada, Mai Tai, and even the non-alcoholic staple, the Shirley Temple. Sadly, the world is full of overly processed and sickly sweet “maraschino” cherries. These florescent red staples may be fine for a sundae or kid’s drink, but they just don’t cut it in my book.

Luckily, making your own homemade bourbon soaked cocktail cherries is incredibly easy.

When I first started making preserves at home, cocktail cherries were one of the earliest recipes I chose to master. Gourmet cherries (like these genuine Luxardo Maraschino Cherries) are decadent treats, but they aren’t cheap. Now every summer I build up a stockpile of bourbon soaked cocktail cherries, enough for my own use and a few to be used as very special gifts to the people I like the most. The end result is a preserve that is sure to impress your guests, and a pretty little jar makes for an appreciated gift to any foodie, cocktail connoisseur, or gourmet in your life.

Stacks of bourbon soaked cocktail cherries in jars. |


The Right Tool for the Job

Pitting cherries is a pain. It’s time consuming. The juice stains. It’s ridiculous messy. For a jam or a pie, at least you can cut into the little stone fruits and just cut out the pits. For homemade cocktail cherries though, you need to leave the fruits whole. That’s where a cherry pitter comes in handy.

Piles of fresh red sweet cherries alongside a cherry pitter. |

A close-up of a cherry pitter being used with pits, stems, and fresh cherries in the background. |

I used a very simple cherry pitter throughout last summer that really cut down the time, but the mess was still pretty substantial. This year I tried a much nicer option: an Oxo Good Grips Cherry Pitter, complete with a splash guard. It’s amazing! Super fast, very little mess, and actually kind of fun to use. The pitter snaps shut quickly, and the splash guard keeps the juice from splattering all over the place. I highly recommend picking one up for yourself or anyone in your life that makes a lot of cherry pies or preserves. It even works as an olive pitter!


Looking for ways to use your delicious new homemade cocktail cherries? While you can eat them on their own, you can also enjoy them in these fantastic drinks and desserts:


Recommended Supplies

New to preserving? Here are some great resources to get you started:

Two jars of bourbon soaked cocktail cherries next to a plate of cherries on a marble surface. |

These Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries are easy to make and scented with #vanilla and #orange liqueur. They are sure to impress novice and expert mixologists alike! #homecanning #preserves #cocktails
5 from 4 votes

Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries

Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries, scented with vanilla bean & orange liqueur, are sure to impress novice & expert mixologists alike! 

Adapted from She Eats.

Keyword bourbon, canning, cherry, cocktail, preserving
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 3 pints


  • 1.5 pounds sweet red cherries, preferably organic
  • 1.5 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 vanilla bean, slit along its length to expose the seeds (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1.5-2 ounces orange liqueur, divided (Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
  • 5-6 ounces bourbon, divided


  1. Using the cherry pitter, remove the pits from each of the cherries. It’s important to keep the cherries as whole as possible, so that they can be used as beautiful garnishes later. Be warned – this part can get messy!
  2. In a heavy bottomed, non-reactive sauce pan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a low boil. Add the vanilla bean and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Pack the cherries into the half pint jars until they are three-fourths full. Ladle the simple syrup into each jar to the same three-fourths height. Then, top each jar with about ¼-ounce orange liqueur and 1-ounce bourbon, leaving a ½ inch of head space. You may need to add a little more syrup or a little more liqueur to meet that level, as needed.

  4. Wipe the rims clean, apply the lids and screw on the bands to finger tip tightness. Process the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes, then remove the canning pot from heat and allow the jars to vent in the pot for an additional 10 minutes (This will prevent potential leaking when the jars are removed). Let the jars rest for 24 hours. If any do not seal, store in the fridge.
  5. Store sealed jars in a cool dark space, letting the cocktail cherries cure in the sugar-liqueur mixture for at least 2 weeks before using. Once opened, store jars in the fridge and use within 3-4 weeks.

Fresh red sweet cherries. |

Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries

37 thoughts on “Homemade Bourbon Soaked Cocktail Cherries

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you! I can’t seem to find these in most stores in Santa Varbara, so decided to make my own.
    Your site gave me more info than any other. 💃

      1. The recipe says this is three pints but in the instructions it says to use half pints. What is the yield? 3 pints or 3 half pints? Thank you!

        1. Hi Shelly! The total yield is 3 pints worth, but I recommend dividing the cherries among half pints (so about 6 half pints). Sorry for the confusion!

    1. If properly processed in a water bath, I’d say unopened, sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark place for 1 to 2 years. After that, the quality of the fruit will degrade. I’ve personally never had them last that long without getting eaten!

  2. Just made a batch up. Anxious for 2 weeks to pass by. Recipe seems easy and straight forward. I did have some simple syrup left over though. Hope I added enough.

    1. Hi Alice! Venting just means leaving the jars in the water bath, rather than taking them out right away. Turn off the heat, move the pot off the burner, and let the jars just sit for 10 minutes once you’ve finished processing them.

    1. I don’t know if I would trust frozen cherries in this recipe. While they work great in jam, I’d worry they would get too mushy and wouldn’t hold their shape appropriately.

  3. I made these cherries and they are so delicious!! I am lucky to have a cottage in Traverse City, Michigan, the cherry capital. My daughter and I picked cherries from a tree down the street and I made them that night. Your recipe is perfect. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. The waterbath process seals the jars, helps kill bacteria that may have accidentally made it into your jars, and allows them to be shelf stable until opened (at least 1 year). You can skip the waterbath, but you’ll need to store all of your jars in the fridge and should use them relatively soon (I always water bath, so I’m unsure the exact life). Good luck!

  4. Hi, Kristen. I love this recipe. Thank you. I followed your link to the well-written canning tutorial, and I have a question. The article suggests adding some white vinegar to the water bath. (1) How much vinegar?, and (2) wouldn’t the vinegar affect the taste of the cherries (or whatever we are canning)? Thanks! David

    1. Hi David!

      I actually never add vinegar to my water bath. I think I might have years ago, but personally didn’t see much of a difference. Some canners swear by it, but its not required for safe canning. If you do choose to add some, maybe just a splash? For a more technical answer, I’d recommend reaching out to the author of the article I linked. In terms of flavor, by the time you put the jars into the water bath, they should already have their lids screwed on tight – none of the water/vinegar from the waterbath should ever end up inside your preserve.

    2. 5 stars
      I always add vinegar because I have very hard well water. The vinegar keeps the jars from being covered with white powdery scale. It doesn’t affect the taste at all.

    1. Hi Judi –

      From a food safety stand point, leaving the pits in shouldn’t impact the process. In terms of flavor and quality, I can’t say. I’ve made jarred cherries that have included the pits before (different recipe), and honestly didn’t find it worth my effort. I highly recommend pitting the cherries if you want the best quality product for your time and money!

  5. 5 stars
    This recipe is AMAZING!! We had a mass amount of cherries this year!! I’ve already canned 14 pints!! Cheers to many Manhattans this Fall!!

  6. 5 stars
    This was delicious! We went cherry picking a couple of weeks ago and found this recipe during our search for creative ways to use them. We followed your recipe instructions and waited for 2 weeks to cure. We had them in a cherry cocktail tonight. SO GOOD. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Rick! I’ve personally never tried it – I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some trick to making that happen, but i bet it would rather intricate to accomplish.

      1. It worked! The pitter removed the pit and left the stem. I clipped off the end of the stem so it wouldn’t contaminate the syrup ….maybe!
        So they look fabulous in the jar!
        Thanks for the recipe! Party on…..😀

  7. I saw that thyme Paris well with cherries and of course noticed the website name… Have you tried adding a touch of thyme to this recipe as I am tempted and would be curious beforehand.

    1. Hi Todd! I haven’t tried thyme in this recipe – I like to keep the cherries relatively neutral since I use them in all kinds of drinks. Add an herb and it becomes less versatile.

      That being said, I have made cherry jam with thyme and its lovely.

  8. Me and a friend made your cherry recipe last year and are already plotting for at least doubling the quantity this year. Delicious!

    The only detail was that the all the ingredients in the liquid I did them per batch rather than per jar which seem to simplify from my perspective the assembly. Also used vanilla rather than vanilla bean.

  9. Hi Kristen, I’m going to try your recipe. Is the lemon juice just for flavor or is it for safely Canning? I was also wondering if I can just use bourbon?
    Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.