It’s time to prepare a Cherry Liqueur (Vissino Liqueur) for gift-giving at Christmas time! If you live in Greece, you would make this ruby red elixir in May or June when sour cherries are sold in the outdoor markets. Barring location and season, you can still make vissino liqueur with this recipe:
2 large jars of sour cherries in syrup (10-16 ounces each–I bought mine at an international grocery store–the canned tart cherries we use to make cherry pies are not a good idea)
750 ml vodka
1 cinnamon stick
peel of one clean lemon (only the zest; adding the white beneath the peel will add bitterness)
1 c. sugar and 3 c. water boiled for a few minutes until dissolved = sugar syrup
In a one-gallon jar with lid, pour in both jars of sour cherries, vodka, cinnamon stick, lemon peel, and sugar syrup. Tighten the lid and place the jar in a cool, dark space. Forget about it until 6-8 weeks have passed. Mark the day on your calendar! When you’re ready to decant, strain and pour this manna-from-heaven into small individual bottles for a gift or into larger bottles for yourself. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE CHERRIES! Save those to add to vanilla ice cream or pound cake drizzled with some cherry liqueur. O the beauty! O the decadence!
I’ve seen other recipes that call for adding star of anise, whole nutmeg, whole cloves creating a spicier liqueur. Practice until you get the liqueur you like best.
My father-in-law made Cherry Brandy in another way. When cherries were in season in northern Greece, he pitted the cherries and placed them in a huge glass bottle. Then he added sugar and placed the glass bottle on the roof for 40 days. The top was covered with cheese cloth and a rubber band so the flies couldn’t get in. The cherries basically “cooked” during that time of Greek summer. At the end of 40 days, the jar was brought downstairs. Then he added brandy and cinnamon sticks, capped it and let it sit and sit and sit until guests were served with a gorgeous and o-so-satisfying little glass of red visino cognac after dinner.