Homemade cherry liqueur, in its native French, is known as Guignolet. Say it with us. Guig gno LAY. Sort of just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Also just sort of pours itself out of your bottle and into your glass quite effortlessly. Or at least it does in France, where the cherry liqueur is set out in small glasses, as if from a magic spigot, and sipped prior to each evening’s repast. Civilized, oui? Athough no matter what you call it or how you pronounce it, we think you’ll be saying its name rather regularly from now on.–Diana Henry

A canning jar filled with cherry liqueur and whole cherries, with a pot of liqueur and many cherry stones beside it.

Homemade Cherry Liqueur | Guignolet

4.75 / 4 votes
This cherry liqueur is made with kirsch, red wine, and sugar is an easy preserve that captures the cherry season long after it’s gone. Simply the best and unspeakably better than anything you can buy in a bottle.
David Leite
CourseDrinks
CuisineFrench
Servings32 servings | 4 cups
Calories71 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time2 days

Equipment

  • Sterilized bottles or jars with corks or lids

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound unblemished cherries, pitted
  • One (26-ounce) bottle light red wine, such as a pinot noir or a Côtes du Rhône
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons kirsch

Instructions 

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the cherries, wine, and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  • Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Immediately reduce the heat and let it simmer languidly for 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  • Stir the kirsch into the cherries and wine. Transfer the boozy liquid to a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and set aside at room temperature or in the fridge for 2 days.
  • Pour the liqueur, including the cherries, into sterilized bottles or jars with screw-top lids. Either stop the bottles with new corks or screw the lids onto the jars. Refrigerate the cherry liqueur until you consume it, preferably that same week.
  • Strain the cherry liqueur just before serving. Reserve the boozy cherries left behind to spoon over ice cream, layer with cake and whipped cream, plop atop rice pudding, or, well, we could go on, but you get the idea. Sip the chilled liqueur as-is or turn it into a spritzer* (see What You Need To Know below) and savor.

Notes

Homemade Cherry Liqueur | Guignolet Variation

What You Need To Know: How To Make A Cherry Spritzer
Although you can sip this cherry liqueur straight up, you can also simply add a splash of this cherry liqueur to sparkling water or seltzer to make a spritzer or, if you’re feeling fancy, mix it with white wine to make a cherry kir or sparkling wine to make a kir royale. All admirable aperitifs.
Variation: Apricot Liqueur
Place 1 pound apricots, halved and pitted, in a saucepan with 2 1/4 cups sugar and 3 cups dry white wine and proceed as above. When you take the pan off the heat, add 5 tablespoons amaretto and 1 1/4 cups vodka. Pour the apricots and the liquid into a bowl or pitcher, cover with a small plate that will keep the apricots submerged, then cover with a clean towel and leave at room temperature for 6 days. Strain the liqueur or filter it twice through cheesecloth, as the apricots do disintegrate a bit, and pour it into clean, sterilized bottles or jars. Add corks or screw-tops and refrigerate for up to a month before using. The liqueur itself should be served in small glasses—I prefer it chilled—or mixed with white wine or sparkling white wine to make an apricot kir. The boozy apricots can be used as you would the cherries above or folded into lightly sweetened whipped cream to make a lovely fool.
Plenty Cookbook

Adapted From

Plenty–Good, Uncomplicated Food

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Nutrition

Serving: 2 tablespoonsCalories: 71 kcalCarbohydrates: 12 gProtein: 0.2 gFat: 0.1 gSaturated Fat: 0.01 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01 gSodium: 0.1 mgFiber: 0.3 gSugar: 11 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 Diana Henry. Photo © 2010 Jonathan Lovekin. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This turned out to have a very sweet, pleasant flavor. I relied on my local wine expert to suggest a bottle, and I tasted a few drops and found I didn’t care for the wine, so I was worried the Guignolet wasn’t going to turn out. Much to my surprise, the finished product is fantastic. I wanted to taste the Guignolet right away so badly, so the two days I had to wait seemed to take forever.

I can only take a little of this at a time due to its sweetness, but I’m going to experiment with ways to use this. I took the cherries and stirred them into my pound cake batter with wonderful results.

Next time I make this I will divvy it up into several smaller bottles and give it as gifts. I also made the apricot version of this recipe. It will be a little while before I can try this one since it has to sit in the refrigerator for a month before using…and I thought two days was bad! I have to admit I tasted the apricot one as I was putting it into the jar. I could have started in on it right then and there.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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22 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    I do not use red wine or any wine at all as I think it interferes with the flavor of the cherries giving it a sangria twang. I follow my limoncello recipe and just substitute the cherries for the lemon peels. Simple and straightforward cherry liqueur.

    I do the same with kiwi, orange, etc. You can experiment with a variety of holiday spices mixed with the fruit or add some heat with chili pepper.

    ~ 1 LB pitted cherries (OR citrus peels of oranges, tangerine, lemon, whole peeled kiwi, etc, toss in a cinnamon stick in if desired). Filter all out before jarring it up. Reserve cherries for boozy garnishes.
    ~ 1 (750-ml) bottle vodka 100 proof
    ~ 3 1/2 cups water
    ~ 2 1/2 cups sugar

    This is a strong liqueur. You can always add more simple syrup to it to weaken the alcohol.
    I marinate the cherries in the alcohol for 3/4 days, make the syrup separately then filter the cherries out and combine the two when the syrup is cooled down.

    NOTE: I do not cook the cherries as you would in a jam. Depending on the type of cherry and how ripe it is, some will hold shape while others mush out. I tend to keep it for muddling purposes or adding to ice cream.

  2. 5 stars
    The two days seemed to take forever but when we tried this last night it was worth the wait. One of the first things my husband said to me this morning was how good “that cherry stuff” was last night! Now if I can only figure out a way to booze up the tomatoes that seem to be cloning themselves on my counter…

    1. Love that, Tammi! And that’s such a guy thing to say…we have “that apple stuff” in my household. As for those tomatoes, are they cherry tomatoes, perchance?

      1. No, they’re tomatoes from well meaning friends who know that I love fried green tomatoes. Unfortunately, my schedule has left me with ripe tomatoes and I am the only tomato eater in the house! Meant to cook them over the weekend but was sidetracked by making Rotkohl, Senfbraten and the Guignolet. I’ve never oven dried any tomatoes other than romas. Any ideas?

        1. Tammi, I, too, find that oven-drying works best on romas or cherries. Let’s see, for big ole honking tomatoes, there’s always gazpacho. We have several recipes on the site, but the one I linked to is my preferred recipe. Also, if the tomatoes are truly lovely and perfectly ripe, you can do spaghetti with raw tomato sauce. And as soon as I see tomatoes at the farmers market, I start day dreaming about this Greek salad with feta and tomatoes. If you need more inspiration, we have ample tomato recipes from which to choose…let us know, please, what you decide to do!

  3. I made it! I ran out of kirsch and topped it off with cognac (and then found that my small town liquor store, while it carries lots of high end eau de vie, doesn’t carry a moderately priced kirsch – weird.)

    Anyway, it’s *sweet*. I do like like it in white wine, or with wine plus seltzer. I think I might like it better if I’d had enough kirsch.

    Question, though – why does it have to be transferred to sterile jars if you’re supposed to drink it in a week? Would it actually last longer, maybe if one took the cherries out?

    1. Terrific, Jane! And yes, liqueurs tend to be on the sweet side, but it sounds like you’ve already discovered our fave uses for it. As for the sterile jars, it’s just to be on the safe side. You really should consume it within a week, just because anything involving fresh produce can be tricky in terms of how long it keeps, regardless of whether you keep the cherries in or take them out at some point.