There's a big, bad world of fruit liqueurs out there—take it from us, we've tried too many. But there are a few of that stand out as truly well-crafted products, carrying genuine flavors without too much sugar (and without any garish artificial colors). One of the best is Cherry Heering.
Made in Denmark for nearly 200 years, the cherry liqueur (created by Peter Heering) infuses neutral spirits with local cherries and spice, giving it a complex, sweet-but-a-little-tart character that's perfect in cocktails. (The ruby red color doesn't hurt, either.) Here are three of our favorites.
Note to the wise: Cherry drinks call for cherry garnishes, but please don't reach for a jar of unnaturally red maraschino. Get fresh cherries or, if you're feeling more bartender-y, brandied cherries (find them at most specialty food shops and good liquor stores).
Easy: Cherry Soda
This cocktail is almost too simple—it's as easy to drink three of them as one (and we speak from experience). Perfect party fare.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces vodka, 3/4 ounce Cherry Heering, 3/4 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1/4 ounce of simple syrup. Shake that all up and strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with two ounces of club soda. Garnish with lemon wheels and cherries.
Intermediate: Cherry Old Fashioned
An Old Fashioned unites whiskey, bitters, and sugar, but here, we're swapping in Cherry Heering for most of the sugar. We're using Rittenhouse rye, which is 100 proof and packs a certain punch, with a dry spiciness that works well with the sweetness of Cherry Heering. And because it's fruity—but not too sweet—this is a great drink in the winter or the summer.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 2 ounces of Rittenhouse rye, 3/4 ounce Cherry Heering and 1/4 ounce of simple syrup. Add 2 dashes Angostura and a dash of orange bitters, if you have 'em. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a cherry and a big twist of lemon peel—twisting over the surface of the drink to spray its citrus oils all over.
Advanced: Cherry Thistle
We love a real whiskey sour, which means no sour mix, please, but whiskey, fresh lemon juice, sugar, and an egg white to add a light, silky texture. A little Cherry Heering is the perfect addition. We're using Cutty Sark Prohibition here, a blended Scotch that has a little bit of a chocolatey undertone. Think of this drink as a chocolate-covered cherry.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces Scotch, 1 ounce lemon juice, 3/4 ounce Cherry Heering, and 1/4 ounce simple syrup. Add one egg white. Shake all that up hard without ice (this is called a "dry shake") and then add ice and shake again (the "wet shake”). Strain glass into a cocktail. Garnish with a cherry.