Homemade brandied sour cherries are a mega-step up from commercial maraschino cherries as a garnish for cocktails. They’re also wonderful in their own right as as topping for ice cream and other desserts. And if you steep with good brandy, you’re left with wonderful cherry brandy (as a byproduct!)
It’s a simple process. Here are some methods:
Use pitted or unpitted sour cherries. If you do pit, retain some pits to add to the brandy (they add a lot of additional flavor). Leave the cherries whole with stems–they’re very pretty for garnishing drinks.
For each pound of sour cherries, use 2 cups of brandy and 3/4 cup of sugar. Mix in quart jar and hold for one month in a cool pantry before using. Store in the refrigerator after the first month (JudiAU).
Some prefer to steep in maraschino liqueur, a not-too-sweet liqueur made from Dalmation marasca cherries (Stock and Luxardo are two widely available brands). Whether using brandy or maraschino, sugar isn’t necessary; just pack a sterilized jar with cherries, cover with brandy or liqueur, and place in a cool, dark place for a month or so. After opening, store in the refrigerator.
While using fresh sour cherries is preferable, their season is short, and they’re not available everywhere. Dried sour cherries plump up nicely in brandy, and still beat chemical-laden commercial maraschino cherries every time (MC Slim JB).