Monday, June 16, 2008

When I say bounce, you say, how high?

It's Mixology Monday again, and this time we decided to participate on purpose. The theme of this month's MxMo is Bourbon, so we are again straying from our vodka background, but again sticking with our core competency, infusion. Today's experiment is a drink which, though less common today, is steeped in tradition: the Cherry Bounce. (To see the other MxMo Bourbon participants, you can visit Scofflaw's Den, this month's host, who will post the wrap-up soon.)

While researching the Cherry Bounce, we discovered an interesting historical tidbit about our own home territory, Raleigh, North Carolina. We had long known that Raleigh, built specifically to be the state capital, was decreed to be established within ten miles of Isaac Hunter's Tavern, a favorite dive of the Constitutional Convention. What we did not know is that Joel Lane, the Revolutionary colonel who sold the plot of land where the capitol now rests, was rumored to have plied the Convention members with a libation of his own, the Cherry Bounce. Thus, this concoction may have been an integral part of the city's origin.

The Cherry Bounce consists of bourbon infused with cherries and sugar. We used brown sugar, hypothesising that the molasses in the sugar would match well with the smokiness of the whiskey.

We began with the following ingredients:

2 cups cherries
1 cup brown sugar
750 mL Maker's Mark Bourbon

Oh, how I long for the day when our nation switches to metric, so we can stop mixing-and-matching in the lab.

The various recipes we found in our research advocated a wide range of mashifying for the cherries, from well-ground to whole. (We found the use of whole cherries hard to believe, after our blueberry vodka experiment.) We decided to pick the middle road, and break them up a decent amount with a blunt instrument without entirely pulverizing them.

First, we dumped the cherries (seeds, stems and all) and sugar into a science jar. We used our old (and admittedly not airtight) jars, since the canning jars we've been using are not large enough for this experiment.

Then, Wayland began to mash the cherries with the handle of a science hammer, allowing the cherry bits and the sugar to mix well together.

After a while, the sugar and cherry juices turned to a thick syrup with large chunks.

We then introduced the bourbon, and put it on a shelf in the science pantry.

Most of our research indicated that the Cherry Bounce should infuse for three weeks. Due to the time constraints of the MxMo, we were allowed two and a half weeks before our official tasting. At this point, the bourbon had taken on a much darker hue than when it started.

As we are not whiskey drinkers generally, we decided to begin with a drink of plain Maker's Mark for control purposes. Alas, we are not very good at faking snobbishness, so we can't provide much description of the flavor qualities. "It was a little rough, though much smoother than most other whiskeys I've tasted," I wrote. "It would take some getting used to, but the flavor was pretty decent once the burn passed."

Wayland was unimpressed with the control bourbon. "It was kind of bland on the front end, and the back end was just not appealing to me. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it's definitely not my cup of tea."

We then proceeded to the Cherry Bounce. We poured a dose of the concoction through cheesecloth to remove the particulates, chilled and sampled it.

"That was neither as sweet nor as cherry as I was expecting," Wayland wrote. "It was a bit sweeter and smoother than the baseline; however, it was only a mild change. Although that change did make it go down much easier."

My thoughts were similar. "This is a little sweeter, due to the sugar, but I didn't detect much cherry flavor. I think this needs more time, and possibly more cherries."

Of course, like most of our contemporaries, we've never tasted a traditional Cherry Bounce before, so we're not entirely sure what the proper flavor should be. We are, of course, used to infusing vodka, which accepts flavor much more easily due to its own lack thereof. However, we did expect more than a very faint hint of something potentially cherry-like. There is also the fact that we had to cut the experiment a bit short. We were hoping to have the final results of this experiment ready for Mixology Monday, but we will keep the infusion going a little longer, probably with a few more cherries, and update again when we reach a verdict.

In a few days, we will present the beginning of the first true vodka infusion experiment we've started since the relaunch. We really have a good feeling about this one, so stay tuned!


Sonja Foust said...

How disappointing that it didn't make a bigger difference! Looking forward to reading the final results. I'm a whiskey fan myself, so this one sounds really good.

Anonymous said...

Well I'd suggest that the minimal transfer of the cherry flavour isn't that surprising.

You would be amazed how much fruit is needed to actually retain the flavour - or whether you'd need to increase the fruit and then make sure that they're sour cherries.

Let the sugar do the sweetening, cherries for flavour (try double) and the bourbon for the alcohol and smokey flavouring.

In defence of my suggestion, I'll cite the traditional German "rumtoft". Which might have as much as a couple of bottles of rum, but they are also filled to the top with fruit (various and seasonal in make up). They're very fruity tasting.

So if you imagine that your test jar is filled with fruit (I'd used pitted fruit because the seed/kernel can impart "off" flavours), then you get the idea of how much you might need.

Oh and a rumtoft is usually filled throughout the fruit season and then kept until the following year.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you didn't use sour cherries - that would make a big difference. I hve a batch of this macerating right now, although I also put some lemon peel in it. Haven't tasted it yet! I also tried a shot of bourbon with just sour cherries soaked in it for about 10 days, and it was pink and cherry tasting and delicious. And the cherries are plump and firm and delicious after soaking.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you guys should consider going to the source for a bit of advice:

Joel Lane Museum House
Telephone: (919) 833-3431
Fax: (919) 833.9431

Perhaps the good folks at the Lane House can give some tips. Perhaps they may even be aware of some recipe that has been passed down. ;) I believe Belle Long is the curator there.

Jennifer said...

I've never made it without letting it set for at least 3 months. I also don't crush me cherries, but I can't really say that makes a difference one way or the other.
I say more cherries for longer if you want it to make a difference.
But then, if you don't like Marker's Mark...

Brendan said...

You know, we just realized the other day that the jar is still in the back of our pantry, five months later. Should be pretty good now, but we haven't tried it yet.

Anonymous said...

I've recently completed a batch using Peach Brandy rather than Makers Mark. I also added nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. Aged it for 1 month and it's quite good and very cherry ratio of fruit to brandy was much higher than what is shown in your photos, though. I did use only sweet cherries. Planning a much larger batch next summer-- to be aged longer, and to have a mix of sweet and sour cherries.

hunter said...

Real cherry Bounce is made with whiskey (2 quarts), remember 2,2,2 2 quarts,whiskey, 2 lbs. sugar and 2 quarts cherries. Use Michigan cherries if you have access to them. Mix together all ingredients in a gallon jar. invert daily, for 4 days. after 2 months it is ready to use.

Unknown said...

My parents brought this recipe to Springfield Illinois From Quincy Illinois. #1 Use rock candy. #2 use cheap bourbon whiskey. #3 let sit for six months in a dark place. #4 use pie cherries and pits. #5 2 quarts cherries, 1 and 1/2 pounds rock candy, 2 fifths whisky. YUM!

Marilee said...

I made a bunch of cherry bounce using vodka (because that's what I had handy) Tart Door County Cherries (because I had just picked 20# of them and they needed to be used, and white sugar (Because I had it handy and that's what I found when I did a search for "cherry bounce: How to make"

I used quart canning jars and let them sit for 4 months. I can report that when I checked the taste after a couple of weeks, it was unimpressive, but after a few months, I now have a very nice cherry cordial type concoction. (All the recipes I found said to leave the cherries whole, but I did pit them.)

Now what I'm looking for is cocktails to use it in! Any ideas?