Food & Drink

Emily Han’s Cherry Bounce and Balsamic Shrub

by Annie Werbler

In the Kitchen With: Emily Han's Cherry Bounce and Balsamic Shrub, on Design*Sponge
Summer is flying by, and with it goes the rich, seasonal fruits we spend the rest of the year awaiting patiently. To extend their turn in her kitchen, cocktail crafter Emily Han whips up a variety of boozy beverages that will keep long into the cold winter months. Emily has perfected two classic cherry concoctions — a liqueur and a drinking vinegar — made from the juicy crimson harvest. Included in her upcoming book Wild Drinks and Cocktails, these cherry bounce and cherry balsamic shrub recipes take their cues from the past, with the present-day goal of sparking an appreciation for provisions “from our own communities, our own landscapes, and our own hands.” For those monitoring sugar intake or avoiding foods treated with chemical preservatives, homemade refreshments are a more wholesome alternative. So enjoy your fresh fruits for a little while longer, and start planning the delectable drinks they’ll soon become in the fall. —Annie

Why Emily loves these recipesCherry season is fleeting, so each summer I devote some time to capturing their essence in the form of drinks like cherry bounce and cherry balsamic shrub. Come autumn and winter I’ll open up the bottles and happily remember those sunny moments strolling through the farmers’ market and pitting cherries in the backyard. In addition to their luscious flavors and colors, sweet and tangy drinking vinegars like shrubs were historically used to slake thirst and promote digestion. And when you make your own drinks, you know exactly what’s going into them, from the fresh, seasonal produce to the sweetness you can control. Although these recipes call for sugar, feel free to experiment with any refined or unrefined sweetener you like. Both of these drinks are versatile and can be mixed with seltzer water or used in cocktails. The bounce is also delightful on its own.

*These recipes are part of our healthy summer series, focusing on recipes that are good looking and good for you!

This post was brought to you by Mouth.com, your online shop offering indie snacks, summery spirits and wine and tasty gifts produced by independent American makers.

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Cherry Bounce (above)
Yield: About 3 ½ cups (823 ml)

My obsession with cherry bounce began when I was gifted 20 pounds (9 kg) of fresh sweet cherries one summer. I made pies, I made shrubs, and, after researching a bunch of old recipes, I made cherry bounce. And putting up a jar (or three!) of this full-bodied, sweet liqueur has been a summer tradition ever since. We don’t know exactly where and when cherry bounce originated, but we do know that Martha Washington had a recipe for it, and George Washington is reported to have carried a canteen of bounce with him on his travels. Over the centuries, cherry bounce has been made with both sweet cherries and sour ones, plus an array of spices and various spirits, such as brandy, rum, and whiskey. Here’s my version.

– 1 ½ pounds (680 g) sweet cherries, pitted
– 4 whole allspice berries
– 2 whole cloves
– ¼ teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
– ¾ cup (144 g) turbinado sugar
– 1 bottle (750 ml, or 3 ¼ cups) bourbon

Combine the cherries, allspice, cloves, mace, and sugar in a quart (1 L) jar. Pour the bourbon into the jar, making sure the cherries are submerged. Cap the jar tightly. Store it in a cool, dark place for at least 2 months, shaking occasionally. The longer it infuses, the better it will be. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or flour sack cloth, gently pressing on the cherries with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid. Discard the cherries, or reserve them for another use.

Bottle and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

In the Kitchen With: Emily Han's Cherry Bounce and Balsamic Shrub, on Design*Sponge

Photography by Emily Han and Gregory Han, except where noted

Cherry Balsamic Shrub
Yield: About 2 cups (470 ml)

Out of all the shrubs I make, this marriage of cherries, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla bean is always the most popular. I love the bit of luxury it brings to everything it touches! Because balsamic vinegar can be overwhelming on its own (not to mention pricey), I mix it with white vinegar here — and I use raw turbinado sugar, too, which adds a richness that’s missing from ordinary sugar. Stirred into sparkling water, the cherry balsamic shrub becomes a grown-up cherry cream soda. As for cocktails, it mixes particularly well with bourbon. And don’t forget the possibilities when it comes to ice cream: toss a teaspoon or so over a bowl of good-quality vanilla, and dessert is served.

– 2 cups (310 g) pitted sweet cherries
– 1 cup (235 ml) balsamic vinegar
– 1 cup (235 ml) white wine vinegar
– 1 vanilla bean, split
– 2 cups (384 g) turbinado sugar

Place the cherries in a bowl and lightly crush them using a potato masher or a fork. Transfer the cherries and their juices to a sterilized quart (1 L) jar. Pour the balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar into the jar, making sure the cherries are completely submerged. Tuck the vanilla bean into the vinegar, too.

Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth. Cover the jar with a nonreactive lid. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 1 week, shaking it daily and ensuring that the cherries and vanilla stay submerged. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a sterilized container with a nonreactive lid. Refrigerate for 1 week more, shaking the jar daily to help dissolve the sugar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Kitchen tip: Grinding turbinado sugar into smaller crystals will help it dissolve more quickly. To do so, use a clean food processor, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle.

In the Kitchen With: Emily Han's Cherry Bounce and Balsamic Shrub, on Design*Sponge

About Emily: Emily Han is a recipe developer, educator, herbalist, and writer empowering people to cultivate a mindful relationship with nature and nourishment. She is especially passionate about all things quaffable, from foraged cocktails to seasonal sodas and herbal bitters. These two cherry recipes are from her forthcoming cookbook Wild Drinks and Cocktails, which will be published by Fair Winds Press in November 2015. She’s also offering a bonus ebook with all pre-orders. Emily lives in Los Angeles and spends every opportunity exploring the mountains, deserts, and beaches of Southern California and beyond. Connect with Emily on her website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

In the Kitchen With: Emily Han's Cherry Bounce and Balsamic Shrub, on Design*Sponge

Photo by Laure Joliet


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  • These sound great! Is there a particular brand of bourbon that works well in the cherry bounce?

  • Sounds amazing! Emily, in the bounce, any brilliant ideas what to do with those rum-soaked cherries when they are ‘reserved for another use’? I’m imagining they’d be great over ice-cream. Wondering about what other ways you’ve used them?

  • Cherry bounce is a early 1900’s recipe my husband’s Cajun family in the rural areas along the Mississippi River levees south of Baton Rouge, & they prided themselves for all the generations taking a part at making it. If y’all are confused what to do with rum soaked cherries, I can guarantee it was the double blessing of making vats of Cajun cherry bounce, in serving banana splits topped with their drunk cherries!! He tells me his grandparents would get together to play an aggressive card game with required gambling called “Bouray” and those old Frenchy people would stay up all night eating Cajun food, dancing to their fiddle music and drinking this down home liqueur while gambling, almost until dawn if the betting got fierce enough!!

  • @Jenny – I`ve tried it with Jim Beam Red Stags (witch is Black Cherry flavored) and it became awesome. Thank you Annie for this recipe.