Cherry Bounce

I’m a passionate person—some of my passions include history, reading/writing, and cooking. In my opinion, life’s even better when those passions can be combined.

In my novel, Klara’s Journey, I dedicate significant time to cooking and meal preparation. This is because food is an integral part of any culture. And I’m not the only author to do this. Harry Potter has chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Jellybeans. Outlander has cherry bounce.

In April, NPR reported that archeologists excavating the cellar at Mount Vernon found two glass jars filled with a mystery liquid and cherries. Archaeologist Jason Boroughs estimates that the cherries were probably picked by slaves sometime between 1758 and 1776, then stored and buried to be served later. Apparently, the liquid inside smells like cherry blossoms. More importantly, Boroughs admits there’s a possibility it’s a cherry-infused alcohol. So, while the archeologist might not be willing to confirm it just yet, my best bet is this is 250-year-old cherry bounce.

See the NPR story here: Archaeologist uncovers George Washington’s 250-year-old cherries

Being an avid reader and foodie, I tried deconstructing the recipe Diana Gabaldon includes in her Outlander novels several years ago. Unfortunately, the measurements were given in pounds of sugar, bushels of cherries, and barrels of whiskey—and nothing was exact! Then fate smiled on me.

The August 2020 edition of Food & Wine included a recipe for cherry bounce. Exactly what everyone needed during a pandemic!

Tucked within the article was a mention that White House archives possessed a recipe from the 1780s. The recipe below was found among Martha Washington’s surviving personal papers on an undated manuscript, written on George Washington’s watermark.

To Make Excellent Cherry Bounce

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 each bottle.

*Note: spelling is reflective of the original manuscript and not an error.

The Outlander scenes that included cherry bounce always involved a bit of chaos and so does the recipe. While Martha Washington’s recipe calls for white sugar and brandy, any “good whiskey” was commonly used. Infamous North Carolina moonshiner, Amos Owens, dubbed the “Cherry Bounce King” used honey in place of sugar. Yet another recipe from the 1943 edition of the Joy of Cooking, simply calls for alcohol. And the Food & Wine recipe gets really crazy, suggesting we smoke the cherries first to bring out the flavor.

With cherry bounce in the news, I’ve decided to share my recipe.

Cherry Bounce Recipe

Since white sugar was difficult to acquire in bygone eras, my recipe calls for honey.

3 lbs pitted cherries
16 oz raw honey
1 bottle of brandy (24.5 oz or 750 ml)

  1. Mash 1 lb of cherries to extract juice. Strain juice through a large fine-mesh strainer, gently pressing the fruit with a sturdy spoon.
  2. In saucepan, combine cherry juice, honey, and 1 cup of brandy. Warm and stir until honey is dissolved. Do not boil!
  3. In a large glass container, combine mashed cherries with remaining 2 lbs of cherries. Set aside.
  4. Add honey mixture to cherries and pour in remaining brandy. Stir until well combined.
  5. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks, stir or carefully shake jar daily.
  6. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain liquor into a clean jar and discard cherries. Return to refrigerator for 2 more weeks, allowing solids to setting.

Serve at room temperature in cordial or wine glasses.

I made this version of cherry bounce to celebrate my youngest child’s graduation from college. Consequently, I can guarantee that it’s just as potent as Outlander claims it to be.

For more information on Martha Washington’s cherry bounce, see:

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