What better way to celebrate summer cherry season than with a seasonal twist on a classic cocktail? Full of fresh fruit and mint, tart lime, and good bourbon whiskey, the playfully bright Sweet Cherry Bourbon Smash is easy to make but complex in flavor. Summer never looked so sweet.
Happy (almost) Independence Day!
Are you doing anything fun tomorrow? We really don’t have any plans for the Fourth of July this year ourselves. Instead, Sam and I have been totally focused on something else that is pretty exciting: A trip out west! Sam is competing in a national fencing tournament in Utah, and since he has family out there we decided to make a full vacation of it. It’s been a few years since we last visited, so it will be nice to see everyone again.
In addition to supporting Sam and enjoying time with his family, I hope to check out the local food and cocktail scene. We even have plans to visit a distillery, which seems appropriate to mention in a post with a bourbon cocktail. I’m sure I’ll be posting our adventures on Instagram, so follow me along @FeastInThyme if you want to see what we’re up to!
Sweet Cherry Bourbon Smash
Cherry season goes hand in hand with Independence Day, so it’s no surprise that the holiday is full of recipes containing this little red stone fruit. Cherry pies are everywhere, and my fingers are stained red from making all sorts of cherry preserves. To celebrate (both the Fourth and the fruit), here is a seasonal version of one of my all-time favorite cocktails – a Sweet Cherry Bourbon Smash.
Bourbon Smash cocktails are great because they taste complicated, but are embarrassingly easy to make. Best of all, you get to literally smash up some stuff with a muddler. Who doesn’t love that?
The basic gist is simple: crush some fruit into a pulp with a sweetener (sugar, simple syrup, honey, etc.) in the bottom of a glass; Add lemon or lime juice and bourbon; stir it all up and top with club soda (or ginger beer, depending on your tastes). That’s it. A Bourbon Smash.
I do a lot of preserving and jam making in summer, which results in random amounts of leftover fresh fruit in the fridge. This cocktail is perfect for both satisfying my love of a good cocktail and my loathing for letting good produce go to waste. I’ve even been known to use the remnants of homemade jam to make one of these in a pinch.
For the Sweet Cherry Bourbon Smash, I added some tart lime rather than a more traditional lemon juice. I’ve recently fallen in love with that cherry-lime flavor combo, and I want to play around with it more in some desserts. Adding a bit of mint gives the cocktail a bright little herbaceous boost. Below, I recommend making a mint-infused simple syrup, but if you feel like skipping that step, you can use regular simple syrup instead and muddle a few leaves of fresh mint in the glass along with the fruit. The fresh mint will give it a bit more of a kick than the syrup, but that doesn’t sound like a bad thing.
If you are really against the 10 minutes it will take you make simple syrup (it’s okay, we all have those days), add a few teaspoons of sugar to taste as you smash up the cherries. Seriously, this isn’t a finicky drink. You be you.
My last piece of advice – use a bourbon you like the taste of in this Sweet Cherry Bourbon Smash. That might sound a bit obvious, but this is kind of drink where a good bourbon will shine, complimented by the other flavors. If you wouldn’t drink it on the rocks or in an Old Fashioned, it’s not the right whiskey for this recipe.
Can you believe the bright pinks and reds on this drink? Kind of ridiculous. I never was much of a girl for pink, but this might be changing my mind.
Looking for more fresh and summery drinks like this? I did a little looking, and I’d wager that these recipes for a Mulberry Lemon Gin Fizz, Tuscan Red Wine Spritzer with Cherries and Strawberries, or even a non-alcoholic Peach Rhubarb Smash (there is even a milkshake version!) would all be lovely additions to your last minute Independence Day menu.
Sweet Cherry Bourbon Smash
- 1/4 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
- 1 oz mint infused simple syrup (recipe below)
- 2 oz good bourbon
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- Club soda to taste
- Whole cherry and mint leaves to garnish
- Ice cubes
Mint Infused Simple Syrup (Makes about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, removed from stems
Sweet Cherry Bourbon Smash
- Combine cherries and simple syrup in the bottom of a rocks glass (I also like to use a half-pint jar depending on my mood). Muddle (i.e. smash and crush) the cherries with the syrup until pulpy. Add the bourbon and lime juice and stir. Add one or two ice cubes, and top with club soda.
For the Mint Infused Simple Syrup
- Combine the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the mint leaves. Let the mixture reduce and infuse for about 10 minutes over low heat. The syrup should thicken slightly (don’t let it turn golden). Remove from heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Using a metal sieve or slotted spoon, strain the spent mint leaves from the simple syrup and discard. Store the mint-infused syrup in an airtight bottle or jar in the fridge until used. Unused syrup will last four to six weeks in the fridge.