Cherry Limeade in general is something that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. In the southwest we had Sonic Drive-ins all over the place and their cherry limeade was a big hit in our family. A little cherry 7-up, a little limeade, the lime wedge and maraschino cherry garnish had all the right kinds of things for a growing kid to get hooked on.
When we moved to the Pacific Northwest you can imagine my devastation when we discovered that car hops and Sonic were unheard of in the overcast & perpetually damp corner of the country we now occupied.
That all changed several years ago when the franchise finally made the leap out here but in the interim I had experimented with the creation of the Cherry Limeade at various points when I was working food service. Most memorably, during a stint as an Ice Cream jockey, where unmonitored access to cherries and a soda fountain on long hot Sunday afternoons was the norm.
When I started looking at making my own cocktails this was the first thing to come to mind. Fresh juice, a little sweetness and some cherry flavor and you can knock this out of the park.
As I explained in my Limeade Recipe, the basis of this entire enterprise is finding a good measure of lime flavor. Without that base you’re lost in the woods and could wind up with something too tart, cloying or worse. Experiment with small shots first before you step up and if you don’t like the mix adjust the lime juice or syrup. Even adding a dash more water can even things out. Once you find your ratios then you need only expand them up to full drink size. (Or even to a punch bowl if that’s your pleasure.)
3 oz Limeade
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Cherry Liqueur
1/2 oz Kirschwasser
Splash of club Soda
Maraschino Cherry (garnish)
Lime Wedge (Garnish)
Shake the first 4 ingredients in an iced shaker, strain into a Collins glass. Top with club soda and garnish.
For my own version I’m currently using an ounce of Volstead Vodka, half ounce of Clear Creek Cherry Liqueur and half ounce of Clear Creek Kirschwasser. The Volstead has almost no burn at all front or back so it’s like a vodka ninja. The Clear Creek Cherry is as close to a ripe Bing cherry as you’re likely to get in a bottle. I haven’t had a chance yet to compare the Clear Creek Kirsch with any of the other brands but I’m happy with about 99% of their other stuff so I’ll stick with the local brand for now.
This mix gives it a nice kick, good cherry flavor, nice color and some subtle nuance from the kirsch that you might otherwise miss in a stronger drink.
For walking around I do about 4 times this amount in a large water bottle and then top with club soda.
If you want something with a bit less punch, drop the vodka and up the two liqueurs to an ounce each. You don’t get much of a drop that way but it’s enough to keep it from being a serious slap.
To be more clear: I recommend trading the cherry liqueur for Maraschino liqueur. I use Luxardo, I’ve heard there are several better ones but this was one I was able to find in the (pitiful) selection of the liquor store up the street. And until I’ve finished the bottle I’m not going to invest in another.
If you want to do this on the cheap, a bottle of cherry 7-up and a bottle of Simply limeade with a splash of vodka can do the trick. It’s not anywhere near the complexity of the cherry flavor you get with either of the above but there’s less mixing and no fuss.
As a cocktail I like this one without soda most of the time but you can vary your drink a bit with either club soda or some citrus soda. If you use a sweet soda like sierra mist, sprite or 7-up you can usually avoid the simple syrup in your limeade. Having both is going to kill any other flavors you might have used with the sugar content playing solo the whole time.