Charred Cherry Whiskey Lemonade. Grilled or sauteed cherries add great flavor (and a little edge) to these sweet and tart whiskey cocktails.
Yesterday, while scheduling out my to-do-lists for recipe-making in the next few weeks (which, by the way, is a very ambitious schedule that’s definitely going to result in lots of How Did I Think This Was Possibles), I realized that “the next few weeks” are August. August.
We’re two months into summer and I feel like I’ve missed them. My favorite breezy sundresses are still stored away in the attic. I haven’t cooked up a single freshly-caught fish for dinner. And while I did manage to dig my toes into the sand at the bay beach a few times (which is not much of an accomplishment, mind you, because I live just a couple blocks away), not once did I sit by the actual ocean with a good book –and perhaps a cocktail– to forget about my impossible to-do lists for a while.
And I’m sure I’m not alone on that one.
But so what if we’re a little late to the party? We still have time to play catch-up. It’s a beautiful Friday here and I’ll be honest, I’m not gonna make it to the beach, but I will work on the cocktail part and celebrate the end of the work week with a couple Charred Cherry Whiskey Lemonades. Nothing says summer like a spiked lemonade.
Have you ever charred cherries before? Grilling or broiling them slightly caramelizes the sugars, making them sweeter and deepening their flavor. And while I love a great fresh cherry as-is, charred cherries add a little something magical to fruit salsas, ice cream sundaes, and yes, cocktails.
The idea of to make Charred Cherry Whiskey Lemonade came from talking to my housemate, actually. He’s the resident whiskey expert, so I was quizzing him on whiskey trivia for my Trivia Tuesday Instagram stories (which, corny as they may be, are one of my favorite parts of the week). We got on the subject of whiskey barrels, and how the interiors of the wood barrels are charred to coax out the wood’s natural sugars and caramelize them. “Kind of like when you grilled the peaches for that salad,” he said.
Well, truth be told, he said “that weird salad”. He meant the Grilled Peach and Halloumi Panzanella I made a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t try any because he’s not a fan of peaches, so I chose to ignore the weird part. That salad was amazing.
But I’m getting off-track here.
A sweet and smoky whiskey deserves a sweet and smoky fruit, I thought, so grabbed the big bottle of Jack that I had leftover from my Jack Daniels Burgers and set to work. I had cherries in the fridge and a few lemons on the counter that were going to go bad if they weren’t used up soon. It’s honestly rare that I have all of the ingredients on hand for a recipe already, or that, if I do, it turns out perfectly the first time. But man.
The Charred Cherry Whiskey Lemonade was amazing. It’s probably my favorite drink of the summer so far.
And I know there’s still a lot of summer left to go, so I can’t make any promises, but I’d be surprised if any cocktail surpassed it. They’re sweet, smoky, and tart, and incredibly drinkable. It’s the perfect way to make the most of a relaxing summer day, and to make sure the season doesn’t pass you by without having a little fun first.
- 1/4 cup charred cherries (see note), stemmed, pitted, and halved, plus additional cherries to garnish
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces whiskey
- 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
- Club soda, to top, optional
- Mint leaves, to garnish
- Ice, to serve
- In a cup, muddle the cherries with the simple syrup. Add ice and pour over the whiskey and lemon juice. Top with club soda, if desired. Garnish with mint and cherries and serve.
- Alternatively, you can multiply the ingredients and strain the cherry and simple syrup mixture into a pitcher. Add ice, whiskey, lemon juice, and club soda and serve.
To char the cherries, you can either cook them in a hot dry skillet or on a grill pan over medium-high heat until blackened in spots and slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes.