Friday, January 6, 2017

Cherry Bounce and the Riversdale Revel

Charles Mason Hovey, The Fruits of America, 1852
Recipe Provenance
This recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).

Receipt for Cherry Bounce
Take the wild cherries before they are very ripe & dry them then fill a cask with the cherries & add rum to them until the vessel containing them is filled. Sweeten with best loaf sugar. Judge Bensons

About Cherry Bounce
In September of 1784, George Washington packed a “canteen” of Cherry Bounce, along with Madeira and port, for a trip west across the Allegheny Mountains. He obviously really must have liked the drink. While contemporaries of Washington would undoubtedly know exactly what constituted a bounce, people today would most likely be at a loss to define it.

The drink known as bounce usually refers to a mixture of brandy and sweetened cherry juice. The earliest reference for Cherry Bounce dates to 1693 and is found in W. Robertson Phraseologia Generalis (new ed.) 369, where it is referred to as a "mingled [mixed] drink" called "cherrybouncer."

The term was considered to be a colloquialism for cherry brandy. Moreover, by terming the drink cherry-bounce instead of cherry-brandy, it was  supposedly possible that it could be sold without the required duty (but I can't prove that claim). Notably, there are relatively few published recipes for cherry bounce that I can find in either English and American published cookbooks; however, there are recipes for cherry brandy which, of course, are basically the same thing as bounce. Here is one from Susannah Carter's The Frugal Housewife (New York, 1803):

While Carter's recipe for Cherry Brandy is basically straightforward and is supposedly very similar to the Cherry Bounce recipe George Washington favored, the following recipe from an 1870 American cookery book is confusing because though it is called Cherry Brandy, it states that "rum, brandy, or deodorized pure spirits can be used."

1870 - Jennie June's American Cookery Book by Jane Croly (New York)

Even more confusing is that while clearly a Cherry Brandy recipe can contain rum or other spirits in place of the brandy, most 19th century American Cherry Bounce recipes I found actually use whiskey. Here are two examples of whiskey-based American Cherry Bounce recipes from the 19th century:

1840 - Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie (Philadelphia)

1887 - White House Cook Book by Fanny Gillette (Chicago)

The variety of recipes for Cherry Brandy/Bounce proves that Morris's recipe that uses rum is really not all that unusual. It seems practical that the recipe transformed from one that strictly used brandy to one that used whatever spirit was at hand. 

Cherry Bounce: Modern Recipe Adaptation

Ingredients Per 1 Quart Jar:

  • 1 Pound Cherries (any variety you can find)
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup White Rum

1.  Wash the cherries and remove the stems. Pierce each cherry several times with a paring knife or skewer.
2. Place the cherries in the quart jar.
3. In a bowl, mix together the sugar and rum.
4. Pour the sugar/rum mixture into the jar. Use a mashing fork or a spoon and mash the cherries enough to allow some of the cherry juices to seep out. Cover the jar and shake to mix up the sugar.
5.  Place the covered jar(s) in a sunny spot in a place where you will see them every day. Shake the jars every few hours during the first 24 hours to distribute the sugar; you may even invert the jars during the first 24 hours to make sure the sugar gets evenly distributed. Shake every day for one whole week.
6.  After one week in the sun, place the jar(s) in a dark place and allow them to age for at least another three months. I let mine age for five months.
7. After the aging process is complete, drain the cherries from the liquor. You can drink the bounce straight or cut it with water, or you can add it to your favorite cocktail. You can use the cherries as a topping for ice cream, whipped cream, jelly, cake, etc. But be aware that the cherries still contain their pits!

Riversdale Revels Punch
In honor of the 2017 Annual Twelfth Night Ball at Riversdale House Museum in Riverdale Park, Maryland, I created this cocktail using Cherry Bounce. Enjoy! 


  • One Part Cherry Bounce
  • Three Parts Sweet Sparkling Wine (White or Rose)
  • Cherries Leftover from the Bounce Infusion Process
  1. Mix together the bounce and the sparkling wine.
  2. Add ice and garnish with a few cherries.
Riversdale Revel


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