It all started because of an excellent cocktail. I had an old fashioned that featured bourbon cherries and was hooked. I knew one thing from that moment on – I could picture nothing finer than spending my spring and summer evenings enjoying old fashioneds with bourbon muddled cherries. To make that a reality I’d have to make my own.
Unfortunately it was the beginning of April and after making several inquiries at grocers I learned it would be a solid month before there were fresh cherries. Being the obsessive that I am, nothing would sate me until I had a taste of fruit-infusing my own liquor. I searched till the ends of the internet for everything I could learn infusing fruit and other food items into bourbon (There is only bourbon, if you want to talk to me about vodka you are a tasteless communist, locked in a self imposed liquor gulag). Quickly, and unsurprisingly, I came across bacon bourbon as well, and decided I could dip so far as tequila into the lighter spirits… solely for the concoction of Bloody Marias. Doing the research online helped, I got a lot of great ideas but that didn’t change the fact that cherries were still a month away. I did what any rational person would do and decided I would go overboard with the food items that I could get.
In a few weeks I was hosting a guys weekend, so I figured I would have plenty of folks to help me consume all this bourbon – going overboard wasn’t completely unwarranted. After purchasing enough mason jars to make even the wackiest of doomsday preppers happy, I set about purchasing more fruit than I probably have personally purchased in my life: apples, pears, and blueberries. To be joined later by what I really wanted, cherries and bacon. The next step was to purchase the liquor, there was consensus among the internet (or at least the first 5 Google results) that you needed to use decent quality bourbon. I chose some favorites; Woodford Reserve was the main as it was relatively more affordable and came in larger bottles, but I also wanted to use some of my personal favorite, Basil Hayden’s. I learned quickly that despite packing the jar to the brim with fruit, not as much liquor was displaced as I had thought so it would take a lot more liquor. One final trip to the liquor store and I was finally set. I packed my concoctions and got ready to wait. The week before my guests were to arrive, I made bacon bourbon and tequila as well. The process was slightly less elegant, but I thought it would be well worth it.
Finally the magical weekend arrived and I got to try my beauties. I was most intrigued by the blueberries as they had had the most profound effect visually on the bourbon. Somewhere along the way I had gotten the impression that the longer they were left the better they tasted. What I had failed to read despite having gone through the directions on several articles was the admonition that one should taste frequently and remove the fruit when the bourbon had taken on it’s flavor. Longer is not better, longer just gets you rotting fruit in ruined bourbon. I know this now because that’s precisely what I got. Desperately and drunkenly and with only a little misgivings from my friends I tried all the concoctions to find the same result. One friend was so kind as to pretend to like the pear for a while, but the next morning the reality of having ruined a lot of good bourbon and this, only the beginning of the summer, began to sink in.
My failure was not total only because I am pressing on, though this time with a bit more wisdom and moderation. I have patiently awaited cherry season this year, and I am preparing but a single jar for now. A key I learned after eating wooden flavored cherries bourbon most of last summer is to remove the stems before infusing the bourbon. Otherwise, they dissolve and give the bourbon a strong flavor of bark, and not even a nice maple bark, something more akin to a pine. My hope is that with careful monitoring and an eventual breakdown to add some sugar to the jar I might finally, after a two year bourbon infusing odyssey be able to enjoy the homemade muddled bourbon cherry old fashioned of my dreams.