Cherry Vodka Soda
I used to live in Oregon, which is something of an outpost for cherries in the northwest. In the golden hills overlooking the Columbia River, cherry orchards spread out in all directions. Cherry season was deeply rooted in the history and economy of my small town. In the summers I would run up into the hills, away from town, where the cherry groves stretched for miles. I’d run in the morning – by midday, the road would be too hot for my golden retriever’s paws. The morning sun was gentle, and I could feel the world heating up around me as I went. I know they weren’t mine, but now and then I would wander into the cherry trees and pick a few fresh, juicy berries. They were perfect – ripe to bursting, sun baked. It was some of the best fruit I’ve ever eaten.
Cherries still remind me of those easy summer days, and in that spirit I dreamt up this cocktail. It’s simple and refreshing, with lemony notes and that sweet cherry flavor. The best part is, you can use the leftover cherry syrup on so many things. We’ve had it on pancakes and in place of jelly on a PB&J. And since it’s basically just cherry juice reduced with a touch of honey, I can feel good about feeding it to my family.
Why is it (sort of) good for you?
Alcohol is obviously not good for you, but all things in moderation, right? This cocktail has some great redeeming qualities:
Rich color is a sure-sign of optimum health benefits in a fruit or vegetable, and cherries are a prime example. They contain powerful antioxidants like cyanidins. Research suggests that cyanidins promote the death of cancer cells and reduce the risk of healthy cells mutating into cancer. Cherries are also anti-inflammatory, and have been shown to relieve arthritis pain and prevent gout (Mercola).
In addition, drinks that contain good amounts of carbonated water help keep you hydrated, which can prevent hangovers. Bonus!
- 1.5 oz chilled vodka
- dash aromatic bitters
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1.5 Tbsp. Sweet Cherry Syrup
- Chilled club soda
- cherry and fresh thyme, for garnish (optional)
- 1.5 lbs. sweet cherries (such as Bing), stemmed and pitted
- 3 Tbsp. water
- 3 Tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- Combine vodka, bitters, juice from lemon wedge and syrup* in a cocktail shaker full of ice. Secure lid and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
- Pour shaker contents into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnishes.
- In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on.
- Remove lid and continue to simmer for 15 minutes, smashing cherries with a potato masher or fork as they soften.
- Remove pan from heat and carefully strain hot contents through a fine-meshed strainer, stirring and pressing the cherry flesh with a spoon.**
- Allow syrup to cool completely, then refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
*For a more dramatic presentation, add cherry syrup last (after the soda water) and serve with a drink stirrer. It creates a layered effect. **Save the leftover cherry flesh for your next smoothie for an extra boost of fiber and nutrients.