Tart Cherry Liqueur Recipe: Part 1

There are two main varieties of cherries for making liqueurs. There are dark, sweet cherries and there are sour (or tart), red cherries. This is my recipe for tart cherry liqueur.

Tart cherries make a very fine liqueur. It is hard to find sour/tart cherries in most stores. The only ones I could find in a super market was the canned variety for making cherry pie filling. This variety is inadequate for making quality liqueur. I live in Southern California. I have found a source for sour cherries in Glendale, California – the Central Grand Market. For this recipe, I bought frozen sour cherries. When thawed, they became very juicy … perfect for making liqueur.

There is a growing season when you can obtain fresh tart cherries. I even heard that you can pay and pick them yourself. I believe this can be done at an orchard in Palmdale, California. I will post more specific information here if I obtain it.

Here is my recipe for Tart Cherry Liqueur:

Tart Cherry Liqueur

Step One Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh or frozen sour cherries
  • 3 cups 80-proof vodka

Step One Directions:

  1. If using fresh cherries, pit the cherries with a cherry pitter. If using frozen cherries, thaw them first.
  2. Put cherries in a 2 Qt. Mason jar.
  3. Add vodka then shake thoroughly.
  4. Macerate at room temperature for 4 weeks.

Step Two Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

Step Two Directions:

  1. Add the sugar then shake thoroughly to dissolve sugar.
  2. Continue to macerate for another 4 weeks.

Step Three Directions:

  1. Strain through a stainless steel strainer to separate cherries from vodka and juice.
  2. Squeeze the remaining juice from the separated cherries using cheese cloth.
  3. Age for 2 to 3 months


  • Use only very ripe, juicy cherries. If cherries are not ripe enough, then let them stand until as ripe and juicy as they can get.

Making The Liqueur

First add the cherries and Vodka to the Mason jar:

Wait 4 weeks, then add the sugar, then shake thoroughly to dissolve the sugar.

Wait for another 4 weeks while the liqueur macerates. In the next post, I’ll go over the filtering and straining.

Continue to Cherry Liqueur Recipe – Part II


  1. Hi there,
    Just stumbled onto your site, and found this recipe for tart cherry liqueur.
    You mentioned the tart cherry grower near Palmdale, and that is my husband and I. We are Cherry Tyme Sour Cherries in Leona Valley, Ca.
    The season is nearly over, but we had an excellent crop this year, and there are still lots of them on the trees.
    Reach us at (661) 270-0649, or email at cherrytyme@email.com for more information.

  2. Wow! Thank you for posting your info. This will be a big help for the readers.

  3. Hi, I think you mean to say “marinate” the cherries, not macerate. That would be an entirely different and less delightful product. Note that the recipe I follow has one drain off the alcohol after each marination. You decant this into bottles, leaving room for the alcoholic sugar syrup that will result from the next marination.

  4. Can one substitute honey for sugar in this recipe??

  5. Mike Doughty says:

    Mike – Yes, you should be able to substitute honey although I have never tried it.

  6. Help!! I grow sour cherries, and after I made a couple pies I ended up with 3 or 4 cups of sour cherry juice. I’d wanted to use it to make liqueur, but all the recipes I come across call for the whole fruit. Can you make it with just the juice and if not, is there anything else I can do with this?

  7. I recently canned about 10 lbs. of tart cherries for pie filling and the recipe stated that I was to set aside 4 cups of the juice that was released from the cherries before making the pie filling. Is it possible to use the already strained juice somehow to make a liqueur, skipping the macerating process or would that be a waste of ingredients?


    • Mike Doughty says:

      I haven’t tried that. I would think it would lack the depth of flavor. The skins and the flesh of the the fruit contribute a lot to the overall result.


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