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Brandied Cherries Recipe – With (or Without) Syrup

Bright red cherries on wood and brandied cherries in a jar.

Mouthwateringly ripe cherries of the red or black kind hang but once a year on the most beloved trees. Picking a bowlful (one for the bowl, one for the mouth) or eating them without restraint straight from the tree is one easy option for taking care of a few, no matter what your age.

When cherries are in abundance, however, you won’t want to leave more dangling from those highest and furthest out of reach branches than necessary.

To deal with a delicious bounty of cherries, canning cherries in honey comes first on the list of common preservation techniques. This is quickly followed by freezing and dehydrating them.

But what about boozy cherries?

They deserve some space on your pantry shelf too. Just keep them out of reach of children, especially the ones in syrup.

Two jars of brandied cherries in the sunshine.
The cherries have already been sitting in brandy for a week.
Just a couple more months till taste-testing arrives.

In a few moments, you’ll find out how easy these homemade brandied cherries are to make. You can even make this recipe by looking at the pictures alone. No special tools or canning methods are required.

All you need is a fruiting cherry tree or access to one, some good quality brandy and a jar.

A basket and a large bowl full of freshly picked cherries.
Enough for cherry compote and brandied cherries.

In our home, syrup is optional. Wherever brandy is involved, as in healing herbal tinctures, it’s omitted. We’ve gone simplistic on the boozy cherries, too – cherries and brandy are all it takes, sometimes vanilla bean or cloves if we’re feeling frisky.

If we are making brandied cherries as Christmas gifts, syrup will be added to sweeten up the present.

Take this as a reminder that, although the gift-giving season is far away, homemade gifts are best made “in season”, meaning when the fruit is ripe.

It takes some thinking ahead on your part, but as is the case with brandied cherries, you can never go wrong. A small jar makes an excellent gift for just about anyone with a penchant for imbibing the occasional drink.

Harvesting Cherries for Brandied Cherries

Our maturing cherry tree sits just inside our fence, and this is the first year we’ve gotten a stellar harvest. We’ve harvested about 20 kilograms (about 45 pounds) of cherries in the past couple of weeks.

Man high up in a cherry tree picking cherries.
Cherry picker in the tree.

Locals are helping out too. As they head out to their fields on foot, they are often pulling down branches that hang over the fence with their hay rakes to grab a few refreshing bites.

To harvest cherries for brandying, you’re going to want to pick only the best.

Or harvest a lot and pick through them later.

Woman's hands rinsing cherries in a bowl of water.
Only pour brandy over the best of the best. Save the rest for compote.

Also, make sure to leave the stems on as you pick your way through the tree, and touch them minimally.

Naturally, you can buy cherries at the market or a store if you don’t have access to a tree. Keep in mind that you’ll want to purchase more than what fits in the jars you have set aside to ensure top-notch quality control. Only use what is firm and ripe, without any blemishes or worm holes.

Imagine serving a perfect Old Fashioned, or a Manhattan, only to have your guest bite into something less than expected. After a few drinks, they probably wouldn’t notice, but to be sure, start with wholesome fruit.

How To Make Brandied Cherries

I won’t bog you down with too many steps. Here’s the quick and easy process for brandied cherries without syrup:

Washed cherries set out to dry
  1. Pick and wash cherries.
  2. Sort through for best color (ripeness) and wholesomeness.
  3. Allow them to air dry.
  4. Cut – or not cut – the stems. It’s more of a cosmetic thing.
Woman's hand cutting the stem from a cherry.
  1. Fill the jars with cherries.
  2. Add any additional ingredients: vanilla pod, cloves, or a few crushed cherry seeds for a more intense flavor.
Woman's hand placing cherry in a jar.
  1. Pour your favorite brandy over them.
  2. Wait for 3 months. (That’s the hard part.)
Pouring brandy into a jar of cherries.

A note about cherry pits and cyanide:

I understand some of you will be concerned about cherry pits containing cyanide. The fear of cyanide in cherry pits is another case where folks have heard a snippet of the facts but not the whole story.

A cherry pit on a stone

Cherry pits or stones contain amygdalin, which the body converts into cyanide. However, the pit must be crushed or chewed to release the amygdalin. So accidentally swallowing the occasional cherry pit doesn’t pose a risk as it will pass through your digestive system whole.

Even if you were able to manage cracking open and eating a cherry pit, the amount of cyanide contained in each pit is so small it would be negligible. (

Many traditional liqueurs contain them in either raw or roasted form. Here’s how you can make your own stone fruit pit liqueur from cherries, peaches or plums.

Here’s some more on cherry pits for further thought:

Brandied Cherries With Syrup – Additional Steps

Overhead view of brandy being poured over cherries.

If you prefer your brandied cherries on the sweeter side with a little less booze, you can concoct a simple syrup in a few minutes.

For every pound of cherries you are brandying, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar (or honey – this will lend a different flavor to the finished cherries)
  • 1 cup brandy

Dissolve the sugar in water over medium heat on the stove. Once the sugar is dissolved, go ahead and gently stir in the cherries, heating them up for no more than a few minutes.

Put the cherries in jars (they can be de-stemmed and pitted if you choose) and allow the syrup to come to room temperature. Then mix the portioned brandy into the syrup.

Cover the cherries and allow them to sit, some say for 6 weeks, before serving.

Brandied cherries in jars on a porch in the sun

How long do brandied cherries keep on the shelf?

Most food experts agree that brandied cherries will last up to a year if they are water-bath canned for 10 minutes. They’ll last even longer if they are stored in the fridge.

Considering how they taste, I don’t think you’ll have any leftovers by the next cherry-picking season. So, you don’t need to worry about shelf life either way. Simply eat and enjoy them in moderation.

Cherry stems in a bowl
Cherry stems will last a long, long time in the pantry.

While you are picking, eating and canning cherries, don’t forget to set aside the stems and dry them for winter teas.

How to Use Up a Jar of Brandied Cherries

Overhead view of a jar of brandied cherries

As mentioned above, sophisticated cocktails are one way you can use brandied cherries.

Some other tasty options are:

  • chocolate brownies
  • cakes
  • boozy milkshakes (I’m not sure when you’d drink that, but it is a thing)
  • cheese board
  • butter board
  • pancakes, waffles or crepes
  • dip them in chocolate
  • and use them as an ice cream topping with whipped cream, of course

Make a jar, or three, and come up with your own ways to use them. My favorite is a single cherry, straight from the jar.

Brandied Cherries

Brandied Cherries

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 3 months
Total Time: 3 months 15 minutes

Delightfully boozy, these brandied cherries are the best thing to do with a glut of cherries.


  • - ripe cherries
  • - brandy
  • - simple syrup (optional)


  1. Wash cherries and sort through for best color and firmness. Allow to air dry.
  2. Fill the jars with cherries.
  3. Add any additional ingredients: vanilla pod, cloves, or a few crushed cherry seeds for a more intense flavor.
  4. Pour over high quality brandy.
  5. For a sweeter product, add a cup of simple syrup for every cup of brandy. To make the syrup, dissolve one cup sugar in one cup water. Allow to cool, mix with the brandy and pour over the cherries.

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Cheryl Magyar

Well, hello, szia and bună ziua!

My name is Cheryl Magyar and I am a homesteader, organic no-dig gardener and preserver of fruits, vegetables, herbs and life in general. I'm also a forager and a rewilder, rewilding myself and our land in Breb, Romania, along with my husband and our teenage daughter.

Since 2001 I have been living a simple life, going on 15+ years without running water inside our home, heating with firewood cut with a two-wo/man crosscut saw and enjoying the quiet solitude of the countryside where haystacks outnumber the people.

What you wouldn't guess about me, is that I was born and raised in a suburb of Chicago. If I can do this, you can too! It's a life you get to choose, so choose wisely. Because I know you're curious, I've spent 8 years homesteading (raising mangalica pigs, goats and ducks) and gardening on our tanya in Ópusztaszer, Hungary. This lifestyle is going on 8 years in Romania. I wouldn't change it for the world.

To discover more about me, and about us:

you can follow on Instagram
read into our website at Forest Creek Meadows
stop by for a visit and/or a (re)workshop
or shop our growing Etsy store Earth Gratitude Studio

Hope to see you around!
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