Martha Washington’s “Excellent Cherry Bounce”

Cherry Bounce_page

The girl who runs Revolutionary Pie writes: Bounce is made from sour cherries, sugar, and liquor such as brandy, rum, or whiskey. Martha’s recipe, which was found in her papers although not in her handwriting, called for brandy. This drink was one of George’s favorites. He even took it along on journeys — on a trip west in 1784, in search of a commercial waterway from the Atlantic to the Mississippi Valley, he packed canteens of Madeira, port, and bounce.

Here is Martha Washington’s “Excellent Cherry Bounce”:

Martha Washington’s Great Cake 2Extract the juice of 20 pounds well ripend Morrella cherrys. Add to this 10 quarts of old french brandy and sweeten it with White sugar to your taste. To 5 gallons of this mixture add one ounce of spice such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmegs of each an Equal quantity slightly bruis’d and a pint and half of cherry kirnels that have been gently broken in a mortar. After the liquor has fermented let it stand close-stoped for a month or six weeks then bottle it, remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.

Cherry Bounce

Adapted from Dining with the Washingtons. I cut the quantity made in this recipe by a third.

7 pounds fresh sour cherries, preferably Morello, or
two jars (25 ounces each) preserved Morello cherries
2⅔ cups brandy
2 cups sugar, plus more as needed
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 cloves
1 (¼-inch) piece fresh whole nutmeg
(or ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg)


[1] Pit the cherries, cut them in half, and put them in a large bowl. (If you use jarred  cherries, drain them first, setting that juice aside.) Mash the cherries with a potato or other masher to extract the juice. Then strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing with a spoon to extract all the juice.

[2] Sterilize a lidded three-quart glass jar. In the jar, combine the juice (including the reserved juice, if you used jarred cherries) with the brandy and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar (my trusty assistant did this task as well as the mashing; and no, she wasn’t allowed to drink it).

[3] Cover the jar with the lid and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring or shaking it occasionally.

[4] Remove 2 cups of juice from the jar. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Taste the juice and add more sugar if desired. (If you use preserved cherries, you probably won’t need more sugar.) Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg, then cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Strain the liquid, discarding the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, if you’re using whole nutmeg.

[5] Pour the spiced juice back into the big jar with the remaining juice and stir. Cover loosely with the lid, and set aside for two weeks, occasionally shaking the jar gently. (I stored mine in the refrigerator since we were having a heat wave.)

[6] Serve at room temperature, garnished with whole pitted cherries, if you like. Store the remaining bounce in the refrigerator.