When life gives you lemons…

…ignore them and make Manhattans. That’s my motto. At least it is now.

The gift of the wonderful Death and Co. book for Christmas has definitely made the brutal onslaught of January easier to deal with. Well, okay, it may not have actually made it easier, but it’s made it seem easier. This, coupled with the discovery that some exceptionally good bourbon is much easier to come by than perhaps it should be, has led to a stint of cocktail hours, and more than a few fuzzy heads the following day.


I’ve long been a classic cocktail lover, and my test of a new bar is always to have a Manhattan. For me its the quintessential cocktail, deceptively simple, and yet one element out of balance and you have a drink that is either too boozy and harsh, or too bitter. It’s also a drink where the quality of the ingredients shine. I’ve always made versions at home using whatever rye and vermouth are available at the local shops. Until now. Upon returning home one day to discover we were out of rye I texted Mr L with something along the lines of “if some rye were to fall into your bag on the way home it wouldn’t turn into the worst evening.” As ever my husband not only took my hint, but delivered over and above my wildest expectations, coming through the door with a bottle of small batch Bulliet Rye. IMG_1971My Manhattan making will never be the same again, and I shall never be able to return to the cheap stuff. The addition of such special malt into our Manhattans lifted the drink to such a level that even Mr L, who is usually a Negroni fanatic, asked for a second round.

There was one other thing that made our new Manhattan tradition complete and exalted above all previous attempts, and for that I have my father to thank (or perhaps to blame?). The garnish on my standard Manhattan would be an out of the jar maraschino cherry. However, upon reading the Death and Co recipe I discovered that they recommend a brandied cherry. It must have been fate as on a trip to my parents back in November my father introduced me to his homemade brandied cherries and the resulting cherry brandy. He’d made them to use with his signature dessert of chocolate fondant. When pressed he divulged his “recipe” and off I popped on the train home vowing to start a batch in the hope of having them ready for Christmas.

Oh how pleased I am that I did, as when making that first batch of Death and Co. Manhattans I suddenly remembered the jar I’d started off the evening I’d returned. It was fate and we’ve never looked back.

And so, I heartily recommend that you get a batch of these cherries in the making, and in six weeks you’ll be imbibing the best Manhattans you’ve ever tasted, or just dipping into the boozy jar of fruit for the hell of it.

Pater’s Brandied Cherries

500ml cheap brandy (no really, but the stuff in the plastic bottle that says “essential” or “value” on it)

250g dried sour cherries.


In a large kilner or mason jar place the sour cherries. Pour the brandy over the top, making sure there is room for the cherries to swell and fill with brandy. Seal and leave in a cool dark place for six weeks (or as long as you can wait).

After six weeks, make a Manhattan and drop one of these in it. Then enjoy all the way to the bottom before tipping the delicious swollen brandied slightly tart cherry into your mouth and chewing smugly.  IMG_1991

Published by Rebecca

Education Development Consultant and wine professional.

4 thoughts on “When life gives you lemons…

  1. That bottle looks seriously depleted !!! Whilst I would much rather have my cherries with the chocolate fondant I’m glad you enjoyed them !!

  2. Sometimes fuzzy heads are so worth it (any more of life’s lemons come your way and you could always squirt someone in the eye). I made brandied cherries once, covered them in thick dark chocolate and ate every one.

    1. I love the idea of squirting someone in the eye! It’s very much felt like a month that could have done with that! Ooh, and don’t you dare suggest adding chocolate, there will be no hope for me at all if I did that!

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