If you are having one last drink of summer, make it this one. The last of the sour cherries from your tree, simmered in sugar, perked up with gin and made into a long, cool drink.
Cherries are only around for a fleeting moment. These sweet, poppable bursts of summer taste so glorious yet are so fiddly to eat that there is a kitchen gadget designed purely for getting rid of their sharp little stones.
Unlike the dependable apples, oranges and bananas that fill my fruit bowl all year, these berries don’t even make it out of their brown paper bag before I have stripped them of their sweet flesh, leaving nothing but those telltale stones rolling around in the corners.
Halfway down my garden there is a cherry tree, but not of the sweet variety. These ones are sour cherries, posing prettily but as tart as bitter lemons. Until now I had always left them to the birds, but this year I leaned the ladder against the tree and harvested the final cupful of these lip-pursing fruits to see what could be made with them.
“Drink under the cherry tree, and don’t give the birds a single sip. They’ve had enough”
Pies, cakes, frozen yogurts and brownies are all deliciously made with sour cherries, but with the sun hot overhead, it was this recipe for a tart Cherry Gin Rickey that spoke to me loudest...
• 1 cup pitted sour cherries
• half a cup of granulated sugar
• half a cup of water
• ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
• half a cup of fresh lime juice (from 4 limes)
• half a cup of lemon-lime soft drink (such as Sprite)
• 4 ounces gin
Pit the cherries and add them to a pan with the sugar, water and salt, and bring to a gentle boil. Keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. This should take around 6 to 8 minutes.
Cool completely, and then pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Dispose of the cherries, keeping just the cherry syrup.
Stir together the cherry syrup, lime juice, soft drink, and gin in a small pitcher. Pour evenly into 4 rocks glasses filled with crushed ice. Garnish with lime slices.