Cherry Bounce is a homemade cocktail with an interesting history and wonderful cherry-brandy flavor! This was one of George Washington’s favorite tipples, based on papers from his estate in Mount Washington. See his 3-ingredient recipe as well as an easier version. It’s heavenly—and makes a great gift, too!
This fruity cordial only has three ingredients—cherries, sugar, and a liquor. Choose brandy, vodka, bourbon, rum, or whiskey. Washington liked brandy and we agree that brandy and cherries are a great match!
Beware: Cherry Bounce is simple and affordable to make but also does take time to infuse. The cherries must be pitted, halved and mashed, and chilled with brandy for 24 hours. And then, once spices are added, stored for at least a few weeks.
History of Cherry Bounce
Cherry trees were grown at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, for many years. Records show that the cherries were harvested in June and then dried and preserved for use in the winter. The cherries were used to make tart and pies, candy, wine, and alcoholic beverages.
The Cherry Bounce is an alcoholic drink made with mashed cherries and left to sweeten in brandy for 24 hours; then spices are added to the concoction to ferment. According to Abigail Adams, then wife of the then Vice President, the cherry bounce was a traditional Dutch holiday treat in New York. According to his diaries, George Washington packed a canteen of Cherry Bounce, along with port and madeira wines, for one of his trips west in September of 1784.
The recipe for this drink was found among Martha Washington’s surviving papers on an undated manuscript in an unknown hand, written on George Washington’s watermark paper, entitled “To Make Excellent Cherry Bounce.” (Note that the spelling below is reflective of the times and not in error.)
“Extract the juice of 20 pounds well ripend morrella cherrys
Add to this 10 quarts of old french brandy and sweeten it with
white sugar to your taste–To 5 Gallons of this mixture add one ounce
of spice such as cinnamon, cloves and Nutmegs of each an Equal
quantity slightly bruisd and a pint and half of cherry
kirnels that have been gently broken in a mortar–After the
liquor has fermented let it stand close-stoped for a month or
six weeks then bottle it remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into
It’s interesting that the Washington recipe specifies brandy as whiskey was more popular at the time.
Washington’s Cherry Bounce Recipe
Below is a modern recipe based on Washington’s papers, courtesy of the wonderful book Dining With the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon.
An Easy, Small-Batch Version
If you wish to simplify the Washington recipe, just put 2 cups pitted tart cherries (such as Door County cherries) in a clean, 1-quart glass jar. Add ⅓ cup sugar. Fill the rest of the jar with vodka or brandy or bourbon (about 1 cup). Store jar in a cool, dark area for about a month, stirring occasionally.
It’s delicious within a few weeks but better after a long aging (3 months). If you’re making Cherry Bounce for a holiday gift, we would plan ahead and leave at least 3 months to infuse. Mark your calendars!
Cherry Bounce was a popular treat at the Washingtons’ table.Dining With the Washingtons, Mount Vernon Ladies' Assn.
Note: The recipe lists fresh cherries but you can also buy jars of preserved cherries, specifically 3 jars (1 pound, 9 ounce), preferably Morello cherries. Or if jarred cherries are not available, thawed pie cherries can be substituted.
- Mash cherries to extract as much juice as possible. Strain the juice through a large fine-mesh strainer, pressing the fruit with a sturdy spoon. You should have about 8 cups. (Keep the mashed cherries; don’t throw them out!). Note: If using jarried cherries, drain the fruit and set the juice aside before halving and mashing the cherries. Add any pressed juice to the reserved jarred juice.
- In a 1-gallon glass jar (or glass container) with a lid, combine the juice with the brandy and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for 24 hours, occasionally stirring or carefully shaking the jar.
- Bring 2 cups of the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Taste the sweetened juice and add more sugar, if desired. Stir in the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg.
- Cover and simmer for five minutes; remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Strain, and discard the spices.
- Stir the spiced juice back into the 1-gallon glass jar with the reserved sweetened juice.
- Cover loosely with the lid, and set aside for at least 2 weeks before serving, occasionally shaking the jar with care.
- Serve at room temperature in small cordial or wine glasses. Store extra in fridge