These easy to make drunken cherries are boozy and intense. Made with just 3 ingredients and 15 minutes of prep this simple pickling method infuses sweet cherries with vodka while simultaneously steeping the cherry’s flavor and ruby red hue into the spirits. They’re great for a tipsy snack or enhancing craft cocktails.
This post has been updated for photos and content since its original publication in 2015. The recipe hasn’t changed.
Table of Contents
What are drunken cherries?
My friend, Nola, introduced me to the concept of soaking fruit in alcohol several years ago with this easy drunken cherries “recipe”. I use quotation marks because it’s less of a specific recipe and more loosey-goosey assembly. This is such an easy DIY to do at home and you won’t believe the results!
Sweet cherries, fortified with sugar and your favorite vodka make for awesome adult snacking. Put out a bowl of these cherries for snacking while you’re playing Euker with your friends and let the fun begin.
These cherries are POTENT and the longer they soak, the more soused they become.
3 Ingredients for vodka soaked cherries
- Fresh Cherries
Yup. That’s it. 3 ingredients. Easy peasy.
Spiking summer fruit in order to preserve it isn’t a new concept. It’s been around since the 18th century and were known simply as “brandy fruits” to be served after a meal as dessert. Conversely, soaking fruit in alcohol and sugar also infuses the liquor with the flavor and aromas of the fruit making a tasty liquor that can also be sipped at the end of a meal, like a digestif. Italian limoncello is a prime example.
How to make boozy cherries
- Trim the stems of the cherries to about 1/2″ long.
- Pack the cherries tightly into clean jars.
- Fill the jar 1/3 full with granulated sugar
- Pour vodka to the top of the jar and seal tightly with a lid.
- Shake the jar until the sugar dissolves.
- Put the drunken cherry jar in a dark space to rest for at least two weeks (or longer).
How much sugar, vodka and fruit do I need for drunken cherries ?
I haven’t specified the amount of cherries, vodka or sugar — for a reason. It all depends on the size of the jar you’re using. Let’s call it the “eyeball” method.
- Pick your jar (or jars). You can use 8 oz. pint jars, 16 oz. pickle jars (very well cleaned), quart sized canning jars — or larger liter or gallon sized containers. Just make sure they have tight fitting, screw on lids.
- Make sure you have enough cherries to fill the jar(s) with snugly packed fruit.
- After trimming the cherries (you don’t have to remove the seeds), pack the fruit into the jars so that they’re full of the fruit.
- Pour the sugar over the cherries, so that it comes about 1/3 way up the jar). Sugar amounts will vary depending on the size of your jar. For a small 8 ounce jelly jar, you might only need 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar, whereas a quart sized jar, could take anywhere from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar.
- Add the vodka until it covers the cherries and reaches the top of the jar. (Again, the amount will vary depending on the size of your containers).
The waiting game
Place the boozy cherries in a cool, dark spot and wait. The longer they soak, the more infused the fruit becomes — and the more of the color will leach into the spirits, turning the vodka a deep crimson color.
I’m recommending at least a two week soak. It’s enough time to flavor the vodka and make the fruit taste like a cherry shot. Note, the cherries won’t be sweet — at least, not in the way you might be expecting. They’re more boozy than anything.
My friend, Nola, soaks her cherries in the vodka and sugar solution for 6 months. That means she makes them in July and doesn’t open her jars until Christmas. (In fact, she gives them as Christmas gifts).
The longer the fruit soaks, the more color is given up. In fact, I’ve let my drunken cherries stew in the back of my closet for the better part of 6 months and the fruit actually shrinks and turns a mottled grey-purplish color, while the vodka turns a dark ruby red. Though the drunken cherries don’t look like their former selves, they can still be eaten.
Best cherries for alcohol preserved fruit
Where I live in South Florida, we don’t have bumper crops of fresh cherries, so my cherry choices are limited to sweet black cherries or Bing cherries. If you have broader availability, also try:
- Queen Anne
- Montmorency (sour) cherries
Best vodka for drunken cherries
Everyone has their preferences from Smirnoff to Absolut, Grey Goose to Tito’s, so I recommend going with whatever brand of spirit you’re accustomed to sipping. I used Tito’s for this batch.
Use a vodka that you like to drink.
Do I need to refrigerate the drunken cherries?
I get this question A LOT. People are naturally skittish about letting fresh fruit sit at room temperature — especially for weeks or months at a time. I get it.
Keep in mind that these cherries are covered in two ingredients that are specifically used for preserving foods… Sugar and alcohol (a third preservative is salt). Using alcohol that’s at least 40 proof will ensure that the cherries don’t spoil.
I found a related response to that question on ChowHound in an article titled Brandied Cherries Mishap? and thought it appropriate to share with you.
“Nonsense to the naysayers. They don’t need to be refrigerated. You are not going to get ANY bacterial growth in bourbon (or vodka)*. 40% alcohol is enough to kill any bacteria or funghi (I work with microbiologists). They are perfectly safe to eat as well. That said, they will lose some of their natural color. Which is why commercial cherries, even the fancy Italian ones, are always died a dark color. The alcohol alone leaches out the color even on red cherries, though they still taste great.”
Heck, pop one in your mouth. If it tastes even slightly bad (it won’t) spit it out.
The fridge won’t hurt them either, if it makes you feel better.
You don’t have to worry so much about sterile jars. This ain’t jam or pickles, it’s booze. Nothing bad could survive in there.
— via ChowHound from StriperGuy July 23, 2009
Yes! Try this with peaches, apricots blueberries, pineapple or other types of fresh fruit.
Absolutely! Try with gin, bourbon, rum and tequila.
Theoretically, you could, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Frozen cherries have already been through one transformation (freezing) and they aren’t as firm as fresh, ripe fruit. If you do use frozen cherries, I’d go with a shorter soak time (up to 2 weeks) and enjoy them sooner.
The longer the cherries soak, the more purplish gray they become. They’re still fine to eat.
After just two weeks, these drunken cherries are happily infused with the vodka. They’re not overly sweet, but they do have a bit of tacky syrupy film that settles over them. You can eat these cherries out of hand or use them in some outta-bounds cocktails.
I have a few ideas on that front… coming soon. In the meantime, grab some fresh cherries and get them soaking now.
More ways to preserve fruit you might like:
- Vanilla Bean Pickled Cherries
- Passion Fruit Syrup
- Guava Vanilla Simple Syrup
- Rhubarb Ginger Simple Syrup
- Fresh Peach Simple Syrup
More boozy fruit combos you might like:
- Tipsy Fruit Salad
- Passion Fruit Vodka Soda
- Rum Spiked Tropical Fruit Salad
- Rum Raisin Old Fashioned
- Tropical Planter’s Punch
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- glass jars with tight fitting lids
- small funnel
- Rinse the cherries and pick out any bruised, soft or damaged fruit.
- Use a pair of kitchen sheers to trim the stems to about 1/2″ long.
- Pack the cherries into a jar, filling it tightly and to the top.
- Use a funnel to fill the jar about 1/3 of the way with sugar.
- Fill the jar to the top with vodka and seal the lid on tightly.
- Shake and roll the jar in your hands until the sugar has dissolved.
- Place the jar in a cool dark spot for at least two weeks or longer (My friend Nola goes a full six months). Shake or roll the jar every so often a few times if you're going with a shorter soak and at least once a month if you're going for longer.
Pin “Drunken Cherries” for later!
I made these, in a quart jar and a pint jar, adding in a couple of vanilla beans to each. I forgot about them so they sat for about 18 months before I opened them. Heaven! I took the pint of cherries, pitted them and added them to dark chocolate ice cream. Beyond wonderful! I made 2 cocktails with the infused vodka; a chocolate/cherry martini with cherry vodka and chocolate liqueur shaken over ice and a refreshing cocktail with cherry vodka, lime juice and club soda. Both were yummy. This will be a part of cherry season for me every year.
Just pulled out the the jars of I did almost a year ago, in July. Strained and re- jared, One Vanille Vodka, one Titos with cinnamon sticks and one just Titos. They all taste yummy. It’s going to be a fun summer…
Just made this. One with regular Vodka and one with Lemon flavored Vodka. Now just have to wait 6 months ?to try. I’m thinking July would be a good time for a frozen cherry lemonade drink.
Have you ever tried brown sugar?
I haven’t, but there’s no reason you couldn’t.
How long do drunken cherry last on shelf and in refrigerator?
They’ll keep for as long as you like on a shelf (we’ve gone so long as 6 months). You don’t need to refrigerate them, but they’ll last just as long in the refrigerator. The longer they sit in the alcohol, the more the color leaches out, but they’re still really good to eat!
I gave a quart to my daughter because I had left over sweet cherries from canning. They are very few. I brought them home, kept in fridge, then sat on counter the last few. Months. Just tried them!! Utterly Fantastic!! The cherries turned dark & now the syrup is sweet & dark also. No sign of alcohol taste- just yummy cherries!! Better than candy!
I have some soaking in Sambuca for 3 years in fridge. They are fantastic. Question is, think I could use in an adult dessert like a Black Forest cake? Could add edibles perhaps (just cbd for healing attributes) ?
You can absolutely use the cherries in adult desserts. I can’t speak to edibles.
Can you do the same with maraschino cherries? I usually soak them in cherry vodka for a month, remove cherries and dry out overnight. Using a fondant I wrap cherries then dip in chocolate. Will adding sugar make the alcohol content higher?
If you’re using maraschino cherries which are already candied, there’s no need to add sugar. I’ve never tried this with maraschino. Let me know how it turns out.
This stands the test of time!! Cheers my friend!
I just bought a big pack of BC cherries and hope to make this recipe. My mom used to make cherries that were ‘marinated’ with the stem on, and when they were done she’d dip them in chocolate!! (dark is best) I couldn’t wait to get into these delightful fruits!
So I added a small amount of tart cherries, sugar to taste and some rum to a small jar that was washed in the dishwasher. About a quarter of the jar is filled….
Will this turn out or is it a recipe for disaster??
Do you have a smaller jar that you could fill it to the top with?
Hi Lisa, I do not have a smaller jar. Will it not turn out if it’s not filled to the top? Wondering if I should dump it and get some cherries from the store to start fresh…
As long as the cherries are covered with alcohol it should be ok.
I have been looking for fun ideas for gift giving this christmas becasue I just put some pitted sweet cherries in moonshine i had in my firdge for the past 5 years lol added sugar and a cinnamon stick to it. Hoping it turns out good!
I’ve just made this recipe and I tried a variation. Bourbon, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and pitted cherries. Excited to see how it turns out.
How about rainier cherries? Would they be good with vodka or rum? Or red wine?
You could use Rainier Cherries, they tend to be a little tangy and yes, you can use vodka or rum. I’m not certain how they’d do in wine.
Made one batch today (I did pit the cherries). Don’t think I have the stamina to pit another batch today but first batch is fermenting! I’m very excited, but I won’t cheat…wait til Christmas! I made lemoncello one year and was unimpressed so I have very high hopes for these! ?