'Tis the Season for Cherry Blossom-Inspired Cocktails
Right now, it’s sakura season in Japan, the height of the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. — and, whether or not your own landscape is awash in a sea of pink, it’s the perfect season for bitter cherry cocktails.
We’ve never tasted anything quite like Cerasum, a new cherry liqueur made by Don Ciccio & Figli in Washington, D.C.
Even if you’ve tried other cherry liqueurs, here’s something else altogether — for one, it’s made with cherry blossoms as well as American cherries. What’s more, there’s a pronounced bitter structure to it, similar in bitterness to Campari, but with a fruity-sweet layer atop. The cherry flavor is loud and clear, but nicely cut and complemented by herbal botanicals.
It’s an unusual elixir to sip straight — delicious, but the fruity-bitter contrast can be quite intense. We prefer it in cocktails, where we can play up the bitter flavors or the sweet, as we do in these three drinks.
Easy: Cherry Sbagliato
It’s said that the sbagliato was invented when an Italian bartender intended to make a Negroni, but reached for the Prosecco instead of the gin. Whether or not this story has any merit, the combination of sweet vermouth, a bitter amaro, and sparkling wine is a fabulous one — and the cherry-bitter flavor of Cerasum works perfectly.
Instructions: In a large wine glass with ice, combine an ounce of Cerasum, an ounce of sweet vermouth, and three ounces of sparkling wine. Garnish with a few lemon half-moons.
Intermediate: The Sakura
Nowhere embraces the cherry blossom quite like the nation of Japan, so let’s honor sakura season with a cocktail that combines Cerasum and superb Japanese whiskey, plus a bit of dry vermouth to balance it out. Manhattan lovers, this one’s for you.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine an ounce of Cerasum, an ounce and a half of Japanese whisky (we’re using Nikka Coffey Grain), and half an ounce of dry vermouth. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and a lemon peel.
Advanced: Cherry Collins
Cherry and lemon are a natural pairing, and this drink goes down almost like a cherry lemonade — but with an awful lot of complexity. If Cerasum’s bitterness seems a bit intense for you, this cocktail maintains all its flavor while toning down the bitter elements plenty. Bottoms up.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce of Cerasum, an ounce of vodka, half an ounce of lemon juice, and half an ounce of simple syrup. Add a dash of orange bitters. Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with an ounce of club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with a few cherries and a lemon peel.