Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cherry Sangria with Apple Mint & Basil

As featured on WBUR Boston NPR's Public Radio Kitchen.

The sweet cherries are hopeless this year. As recently as two weeks ago, I could be heard muttering thinly veiled complaints regarding the inferiority of the fruit early in the season. But the joke’s on me, and it turns out that that was the cherry crop’s peak for the year. We had a couple of late frosts this spring, and now there are hardly any cherries to be found at all. Sour cherries, yes. Sweet cherries, apparently an earlier blossom, not so much. Early summer suddenly seems to be slipping away, but I can’t let go of cherry season. Not quite yet.

I always seem to forget how much I love good cherries during the eleven months they’re not available. Those magnetic first flats, which usually appear in the market just as June touches July, bring it all flooding back though. Cherries are distracting, maybe even a little wanton. There’s something almost animate in the way their skins catch on one another when you roll a few in the palm of your hand. And the flavor. Tart and fresh, then earthy and sweet. There's nothing else quite like it. So the prospect of skipping a full season, of waiting another year to enjoy cherries, is a sad one.

Fortunately there is a very good way of stretching a small harvest, not to mention prodding an inferior crop to act as proper cherries should, and that is by crushing the fruit into some well-constructed summer cocktails. I like my cherry-infused drinks a little rough-and-ready, unstrained, with some herbs from the greenmarket (cool mint, peppery basil) and a few wedges of lemon to help the fruit sit up and sing. Even though making simple syrup is possibly the least demanding thing in the world, I just can’t face it. I’d rather pour a good glass of wine. So my cherry cocktails in all their incarnations employ plain old granulated sugar (not even superfine), and an enthusiastic muddle with the less friendly end of a wooden spoon.

You can use 4 ounces of cachaça instead of the wine here, swap in lime for the lemon, and you’ll have yourself a seriously good cherry caipirinha. But this version is what I make most often. It’s more delicate and tranquil - approachable in the afternoon without threatening to turn the rest of your day on its ear. It’s a sangria of sorts, though lighter and with no brandy.

Any mint will do, but I am particularly fond of the floral, mild (and almost never apple-y) apple mint some of our farmers sell this time of year. Just be sure to get up early on market day, before the few sweet cherries still to be found have been snatched up. I've noticed it’s getting a little competitive out there.

Makes 2

12 sweet cherries, halved and pitted
6 fresh basil leaves
6 fresh mint leaves, plus 2 extra sprigs for garnish (I like applemint, but any mint you enjoy will do)
4 tsp granulated sugar
2 ½-inch thick rounds of lemon, halved
8 oz chilled white wine

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the cherries, basil, mint and sugar. Add the lemon slices and muddle again. Add the wine and fill the shaker with ice. Shake well and decant into two old-fashioned glasses, adding more ice if desired. Garnish with the mint sprigs and serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

Now I know what I am doing with my cherries from the CSA!!! Can't wait.

Sally said...

The basil is unusual. It sounds delicious though.

Gloria said...

look absolutely beaut and nice Aamnda! take care dear! gloria

Jenn @leftoverqueen said...

This looks so wonderful! I love all the flavors here! Not quite cherry season here, but I am hoping soon!

Joanne Rendell said...

How many times can I say "I want, I want, I want..."? This sounds heavenly.

Dave said...

Awesome recipe, awesome blog!

Candy McDowell said...

I'm going to whip up a batch of these tonight for my cousin's birthday. Thanks for a great idea!

Tracy, Crief said...

That last shot of the cherries being shoved off by plums is too sad!

Sarah said...

I was so disappointed how quickly the cherries disappeared from my local market this year. If I can dig up any more I will definitely be trying this out!

Lucy said...

just read that it was "hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk" in NYC.

stay cool!

gorgeous. our cherry trees were picked clean by the birds last year, but this year, i'm onto them.

apple mint not tasting very apple-y. what a shame! was going to try growing it this year...maybe not?

tribecachef said...

Congrats on the NPR write up!

Janet said...

Sounds divine. I hope you're staying cool in this heat.

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