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Bing cherry wishniak

It’s cherry season!

This recipe is a slight variation from Homemade Liqueurs, by Dona and Mel Meilach (1979). The trick is to find sweet, flavorful cherries in the prime of their season—which for me are Bing cherries. Note that this particular liqueur might take a while to mature. I made a batch in 2013, and only now is it starting to smoothen and round out. I expect, er hope, that it’ll be even better in several months, or even in another year or three!

cherry wishniak from the fridge

I use a good, mid-range vodka (Ketel or Sobieski), along with evaporated cane sugar.

My talented friend Jenifer might perform a similar experiment with brandy. I can’t wait to try her results—if any remains! 🙂

Equipment notes: Best to use a scale to weigh out the cherries and sugar. A 1-liter jar is the right size for the steeping, and a 750ml bottle, especially ones with flip-tops or previous containers for liquor, are handy for the end result.


  • 1/2 pound of the best sweet cherries you could find
  • 1/2 pound sugar; optionally, a small portion (an ounce or so) may be vanilla sugar
  • 2 cups vodka


  1. Remove and discard any stems. Thoroughly rinse cherries, then lightly pat dry with a towel.
  2. Trim off any brown or suspiciously rotted bits from the cherries. Cut, but don’t completely slice in half, around the circumference of each fruit; you won’t need to remove the pits, either. This will expose the inside to the vodka and sugar during steeping.
  3. Place the cherries in the steeping jar, and cover with the sugar. Pour in the vodka, then cap off: a rubber-sealed jar is great for this process.
  4. Place jar in a dark, cool place to steep. Check and shake every couple weeks. Usually 3 months of steeping should suffice, but after the first 2 months I start taste testing every two weeks or so.
  5. Line a fine-meshed strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth; I use butter muslin, which is stronger, finer, and reusable. Squeeze liquids out of the mass in the cheesecloth, then dispose of the solids.
  6. Store the cherry wishniak in a cleaned glass bottle. It can be stored at room temperature in a dark, cool pantry, or in the refrigerator. Taste test every 2 or 3 months, as it will mature over time. If it does not appeal to my tastebuds after about a year (e.g., a nasty papery taste that persists), I tend to toss it out, which sadly has occurred. That’s why it’s good to try this year after year for a few years, since crops differ all the time, especially if you want a good supply on hand to consume.

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