Bounce (but only if you're 21+)

Wisconsin has a lot of proud traditions - most surrounding food and drink (and sports). Some are
obvious, like the Green Bay Packers. Some are lesser known outside of the Midwest, like Friday Fish Fry and brandy Old Fashioneds  sweet. Some are nearly unknown, unless you live in Wisconsin, like Cherry Bounce.

Wikipedia has a tiny entry on Cherry Bounce, which doesn't allude to the Midwestern custom at all.
Cherry Bounce is a liqueur made by infusing brandy with cherries and sugar. Some recipes will use rum, whiskey or vodka instead of brandy.
The English hamlet of Frithsden claims to have originated the Cherry Bounce.
A lane leading off the Old High Street in nearby Hemel Hempstead is named Cherry Bounce and is shown having had this name in maps dating back to the early 19th century.
That's the whole thing...

On this side of the pond, Martha Washington actually had a recipe for Cherry Bounce (which can be found online) and legend has it that George packed a canteen of it for a trip west across the Allegheny Mountains in September 1784.

With the trend in craft cocktails and the resurrection of old, classic drink recipes, Cherry Bounce is making a national comeback of sorts. A Google search yields a lot of recipes from popular and trusted sources like The Beekman Boys, Epicurious, Imbibe Magazine, and more. However, these recipes are a lot fancier than a traditional Wisconsin Bounce. They call for spicing the cherries with things like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. They also add a step that Wisconsin recipes don't bother with - macerating the cherries for a period of time before adding the alcohol.

The Wisconsin recipe is simple and calls for a total of four ingredients: tart cherries, sugar, alcohol, and time.

Tart cherries. In our state, there's yet another thing we're mighty proud of - Door County cherries (tm). Yeah... they're probably not REALLY trademarked but they should be. For truly traditional Wisconsin Bounce, Door County Montmorency pie cherries are the ones you want. Fortunately, my backyard cherry tree has Montmorencys on it and it was VERY prolific this year.

Sugar. Get a lot. Cherry Bounce is a liqueur - very thick and syrupy.

Alcohol. Like all Wisconsin cocktails, brandy is the preferred and traditional alcohol for Bounce. I'm not sure what the Wisconsin fascination is with brandy... it's too sweet for me. This is one place where the east-coaster in me takes over and I make my Bounce with bourbon. I've also seen it made with rum.

Time. So, the rule is that you put up your Cherry Bounce in early July when the Door County cherries come ripe and you let it sit until Christmas. If you're smart, you save some cherries in the freezer and put up a new batch of Bounce just before Christmas so that you have some in the early summer just before the Door County harvest happens.

Now, how you put your Bounce together is up for debate. Ask 10 Wisconsinites and you'll get 10 variations (within a small range of variables). Last year, I put up Bounce using unpitted sweet cherries because that's what I had too many of. I used bourbon and I cut the sugar back a bit. The resulting Bounce was good but not great. It wasn't enough of a liqueur (not enough sugar) and the cherry flavor was okay but not great. This year, I followed the more traditional recipe and I have great hopes for a truly excellent Christmas.

Traditional Wisconsin Cherry Bounce
makes one quart

  • Fill a 1 qt Mason jar half full with pitted, tart (pie) cherries (Montmorency)
  • Cover the cherries with 2 C white cane sugar*. Screw on the lid and shake vigorously until the cherries are coated.
  • Add 1/2 qt of brandy (or bourbon, or rum, or even vodka) to fill the jar.
  • Screw on lid tightly and shake to mix well. 
  • For the next day or so, shake the Mason jar occasionally to finish dissolving the sugar.
  • The cherries may settle a bit and it's worth opening the jar back up and adding enough pitted cherries to fill the entire jar.
 Put the jar in a cool, dark place and let it sit until Christmas.  Open and enjoy as a shot, mixed with club soda, or with hot water for a cherry toddy.

*I used a cup and a half of sugar. I simply couldn't bring myself to add that much sugar to the jar. We'll see how it turns out.

Last week, we got blueberries in our fruit CSA and my friend Kristine got really creative and made Blueberry Bounce with them. She used vodka as her liquor (which I think was a good choice for blueberries). There may soon be some jars of blue nectar curing in my closet with the red ones.

- Alex

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