The Best Cherry Bounce Recipe and the Uniquely Wisconsin Story Behind It 

Destination Door County

By Kevin Revolinski

June 9, 2023

Old Fashioneds get all the hype. But “up north”, it’s cherry bounce season.

Got Bounce? No, not the fabric softener–the Wisconsin tradition. Naturally, it’s got booze.

Cherry bounce is hard liquor—often, but not always, brandy—rested on cherries for a time. While it’s slowly spreading south (The Old Fashioned in Madison makes some), its origins lie in northern Wisconsin: Door County, specifically, which is famous for its cherries. Lake Michigan’s temperature stability combined with alkaline soil and limestone offer the perfect conditions for growing the summer fruit. (Legend has it–a UW professor and orchardist planted the first cherry orchard there in 1891.) 

Bounce, however, first became popular in Europe, with text mentions as far back as 1693 in the UK. Martha Washington used to make it for George, who took a canteen of the beverage with him on expeditions into the frontier. Her recipe calls for 20 pounds of sour Morello cherries in 10 quarts of French brandy, sweetened with sugar and spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. 

You do you, Martha, but this is Wisconsin, so we prefer Korbel. But even that’s not fixed in stone. It’s common to swap bourbon, vodka, or even gin instead. 

Mr. Door County himself, Jon Jarosh of Destination Door County, agrees, sharing the “official” recipe (below), while admitting he doesn’t follow it himself. Jarosh keeps the pits in the mix to give the final product a touch of almond flavor. 

As long as you have Montmorency cherries, you can make cherry bounce any time. But the best time to get fresh cherries in Wisconsin is the July harvest. Bounce lasts for at least a few weeks, if not a few months. Many save it to drink at Thanksgiving.

RECIPE: Wisconsin Cherry Bounce

1 pound Montmorency cherries

3 cups sugar

4 cups spirit of choice (brandy, bourbon, vodka, or rum)

Cloves, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg (optional)

  • Poke a hole in the skin of each cherry so the booze can get in, leaving the pits in (if you prefer). 
  • Dissolve the sugar into the liquor and pour into a half gallon jug or resealable bottle (with an opening wide enough to fit the cherries.)
  • Store at room temperature.
  • Serve neat or as a mixer. (Strain cherries when serving, but save for garnish or ice cream topping.) 

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