Sour Cherry Liqueur is traditionally made at home so it’s appropriate that we share a family recipe.
This recipe for Sour Cherry Liqueur comes from Aleppo, Syria and like many recipes from the region, it is kept a secret and handed down to generations.
Known by its Arabic name as Ambariyet el Karaz, this recipe shares Armenian-Aleppine origins and is traditionally served during festive occasions such as Christmas, New Year and Easter when guests visits.
Sour Cherry Liqueur is made from sour cherries called wishna that grow on the outskirts of the city. Whole cherries with their pits are infused with Arak, the Lebanese anise-based spirit along with sugar and cloves. The pits are important as they impart an almond-like taste.
You can find sour cherries in vacuum-sealed packaging at specialist Middle Eastern stores. Dried sour cherries can also be used as they’ll soak up the spirit. They’re the same type of sour cherries that go in the specialty dish of Aleppo, Kabab bil Karaz.
Sweet, with a hint of tartness and warm spices, Sour Cherry Liqueur brightens up any festive occasion. Serve it in a liqueur glass with 2-3 unpitted cherries at the bottom which are nibbled at the end.
How to Make Sour Cherry Liqueur
- 500g dried sour cherries (unpitted)
- 1 bottle (750ml) of Lebanese Arak, around 50% ABV
- 1 teaspoon of cloves, whole
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground clove powder
- 1 1/2 cups of castor sugar
In a one litre glass with an airtight lid, soak the unpitted dried cherries in Arak overnight. The next day, add sugar along with whole cloves and ground cloves. Shake the jar then store it upside down. For the next 10 days, shake it daily and turn it. The liquid will gradually take on the colour of the cherries and turns very dark with age as shown in the photo above. The flavour of the sour cherry liqueur will develop with time so it is best to leave it for at least 2 months before use.
The liqueur keeps indefinitely as it has a high ABV spirit but it’s best kept it in a dry and cool spot out of daylight. The longer it is kept, the darker it gets and the pits impart a mild nutty flavour.
To serve, pour a little into a liqueur glass and add 3 soaked sour cherries. Remember to tell your guests that the cherries are not pitted before they bite into them.
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