Blame It on the Cherry Bounce

Where this cordial flows, mischief follows.

Smoke Cherry Bounce Recipe
Photo: Photo by Greg DuPree / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer

Someone recently broke into my home and opened my cherry bounce. Had my husband and I not discovered the metal fire door ripped off the hasp and set aside, I’d have assumed that an ambitious possum or possibly a thirsty ghost had lifted the hefty crystal stopper from the bottle, but here we are. Where cherry bounce flows, mischief frequently follows.

The origins and definitive composition of this cherry cordial are murky (who among us hasn’t tried to coax booze out of whatever fruit we have in excess?). Early British recipes use a brandy base, a White House recipe from the 1880s (Martha Washington’s personal archives included notes on it) calls for “good whisky,” North Carolina moonshiner Amos “The Cherry Bounce King” Owens deployed honey instead of sugar, and my grandmother-in-law’s 1943 edition of Joy of Cooking just says “alcohol,” so perhaps the mayhem is as essential an ingredient as cherries, sugar, and patience. Maybe that’s what made my own delight and freedom to experiment inevitable.

I’ve got cherries tattooed on my back and fire on one of my shoulders, so the two were destined to canoodle in my barrel smoker at some point during the peak of the season, but the exercise in delayed gratification that making good bounce entails might add to the anticipation. Open that sucker up before Christmas and it’s most likely quite good, but nothing like the sweet, hazy, high-proof elixir that caused—after very small amounts!—one friend to spontaneously nap on the couch, a beloved relative to tumble into the bushes, and another friend who quite emphatically “does not dance” to leap up and kick-flip like Molly Ringwald in a high school library. Though I suspect he’d just been wanting to and knew he could blame it on the bounce.

Sip it straight from a cordial glass, substitute it for vermouth to make a Bouncegroni or a Bouncehattan, or figure out your own favorite way to quaff cherry bounce. It’s fine to just let the spirit move you.

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