Homemade Cherry Liqueur

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.

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

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. Originally published July 6, 2012.Diana Henry

Homemade Cherry Liqueur | Guignolet

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 2 D
  • Makes about 1 quart

Special Equipment: Sterilized bottles or jars with corks or lids

5/5 - 2 reviews
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Ingredients

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  • 1 generous 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

Directions

  • 1. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the cherries, wine, and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. 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.

Variations

  • 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.

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.

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Comments

  1. 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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. How long can it stay drinkable in the fridge? It sounds like something wonderful to savor, a bit at a time.

    1. Hi Gale, traditionally the liqueur is made from firm, sweet cherries although you could toss in some sour cherries as well.

    1. Lisette, that’s a swell question. We haven’t tried it as such, and so it would depend on how sweet the red wine as well as how sweet the cherries. Why don’t you give it a go, tasting it for sweetness and adding sugar if needed?

  4. I’m excited to try this. I just got a great deal on a ton of cherries. Question: Is kirsch the same as kirschwasser? Or is it something different.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi, Leah. Indeed they are the same thing. The name kirschwasser is often shortened to kirsch, which is what we know it as. Also, in France it’s known as Kirsch.

  5. Oh this sounds amazing! I’ve never seen–or drunk–Guignolet but I would love to. Easy, wonderful recipe. I did recently make (and post) a Cherry Prosecco Granita and cherries and booze are the perfect match.

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