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Spiced pickled cherries: cocktail ingredient, garnish

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  • Spiced pickled cherries close up from above
  • Making spiced pickled cherries with cherries in vintage sugar bowl from above
  • Spiced pickled cherries close up from above with bar spoon
  • Making spiced pickled cherries with cherries in vintage sugar bowl from 45 degrees

Spiced pickled cherries offer the most amazing spiced and sweet depth to cocktails. I have used Spiced pickled cherries and their brine in the following pickle cocktails:

Still life cherries and pickles photography
The cherry still life photographs for this post were taken in Summer at the height of cherry season, but it has taken me some time to edit them. The photographs of finished spiced pickled cherries are of some pickles I had from last season which I was using up in cocktails. This post offers tips on pickled cherries as a cocktail ingredient and provides a spiced pickled cherry recipe that you can use when it is Summer.

How to use pickled cherries in cocktails: souring, flavouring, garnishes
Spiced pickled cherries taste tart and delicious – both the sherry-vanilla infused spiced red wine vinegar brine can be used as a souring and flavouring agent and the cherries themselves make lovely garnishes that are the perfect finish to a cocktail being sweet-sour and rich with spices. Although it’s not cherry season now Autumn and Winter are the prefect time to open your pickled cherries and make use of them extending the flavours of Summer. It’s my hope that providing this recipe and tips for how to use spiced pickled cherries inspires you to make some come Summer time and cherry season where you are.

How are spiced pickles cherries different to other cocktail cherries?
Spiced pickled cherries offer a lower GI and healthier cocktail garnish than high sugar and coloured non-alcoholic ‘maraschino cherries’ preserved with salt, artificially sweetened and coloured, not to be confused with more sophisticated original marasca cherries preserved in luxardo maraschino liqueur. This spiced pickled cherry recipe uses coconut sugar and sweet spices to enhance the natural sweetness of the cherries which are preserved using red wine vinegar and heat treated for a longer shelf life allowing more complex flavours to develop over time. The sweet-sour profile of a pickled cherry means it can be used to provide a sour element to cocktails as well as cherry and spice flavours in the brine or as a garnish.

Other uses for spiced pickled cherries
The sweet-tart flavour of spiced pickled cherries is a great accompaniment to cheeses and salads, and if you eat meat, can be paired with roasted duck or turkey.

Complex fruit and spice flavours: in season cherries, rich sweet spices, sherry
My spiced pickled cherry recipe features a complex spice mix that includes orange peel, sherry soaked vanilla bean, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, Australian indigenous wattleseed, cloves and mixed pepper. Following Cornersmith Salads & Pickles (Elliott-Howery & Spindler 2017: 98) in season cherries are paired with red wine vinegar for depth and complexity of flavour that combines wonderfully with vanilla, orange, and sweet spices.

How to make spiced pickled cherries
To make this spiced pickled cherries recipe a little preparation is required to soak the vanilla bean overnight in sherry. Once this is done the rest of the process is easy – fresh cherries are packed into sterilised jars with orange zest and spices and then hot red wine vinegar brine infused with the vanilla bean is poured over and the jars are heat treated in a hot water bath. This heat treating process, in a similar manner to canning or preserving, increases the shelf life of the pickles, which can be kept for up to 18 months in a cool dark place and once open need to be kept in the fridge and used within 6 months.

Increase flavour complexity by aging your spiced pickled cherries
The flavour of spiced pickled cherries develops and increases over time so it’s good to put these pickled cherries away and use them after they become more complex. The first time I made them I had left over sherry soaked vanilla beans from making my grandma’s Xmas pudding and so I upcycled them into a flavouring for the pickle brine. The pickles do have an Xmas pudding kind of spice flavouring: rich and delicious.

Living with the seasons: pickling as slow food flavour experiment
Pickling is all about living with the seasons and preserving the best of the season with delicious flavour pairings. It’s not cherry season here now, but I have had these photos and recipe for some time and finally compiled them all together into this post – and it’s the right time to be using these pickled cherries as garnishes and in cocktails. Pickled cherries bring warmth and spice that is so lovely as the season changes into Autumn and then into Winter. The spices are very Xmas pudding like and instantly transport me to the smell of macerating Xmas pudding fruit from my Grandmother’s recipe. They bring a taste of Summer into Autumn and Winter after the fresh cherries are gone. For me this bringing of flavours through pickles from one season to the next highlights the cycle of the seasons.

I hope you have some ideas now as to what you can do with spiced pickled cherries in cocktails such as in a Bellini with blood oranges, in an apricot pickle whiskey sour, a pickle twist on an old fashioned cocktail and a garnish for pickle Mai Tai cocktails and now you have the recipe to make them when it is Summer and cherry season where you are.

~Disclaimer~ This post contains affiliate links. As an Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Spiced pickled cherries

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 500ml jars Cooking Time: 1 hour plus overnight (30 minutes preparation, 15 minutes to sterilise jars and 15 minutes to heat treat, overnight to soak vanilla bean in sherry)


  • 250gms cherries
  • 375ml red wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup coconut sugar
  • 4 pieces of orange zest
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon wattleseed
  • 4 allspice
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon mixed pepper corns
  • 1 sherry soaked vanilla bean



Soak a split vanilla bean in sherry overnight


Make your brine by combining, vinegar, water, sugar and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stirring to dissolve the sugar, remove the vanilla bean


Sterilise your jars – see Resources


Pack jars with spices (except for cinnamon sticks – reserve these) and washed cherries


Reheat the brine and pour over the hot brine


Use a cinnamon stick to anchor the cherries beneath the brine in each jar


Tap the jars gently on the bench top and run a butter knife around the outside to remove any air bubbles


Wipe the rim with a clean tea towel and apply the clean lids


Heat process for 15 minutes – see Resources


May be stored for 18 months in a cool dark place, refrigerate and use within 6 months after opening



Pickled cherries. In Alex Elliot-Howery & Sabine Spindler (2017: 98). Cornersmith: Salads & Pickles: Vegetables with more taste & less waste Murdoch Books: Crows Nest Sydney & London.

Other pickled cherries recipes

Pickled cherries with allspice. In Matthew Evans. (2016: 1182). Not Just Jam: The Fat Pig Farm book of preserves, pickles and saucesMurdoch Books: Sydney & London.

O Toma Carey Pickled cherries with sweet spices In SBS Food

Mary Cadogan Pickled cherries In BBC Good Food

Molly Watson Spiced pickled cherries In The Spruce Eats

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