I found my way to bourbon through luck and good timing. After years of drinking beer and wine, or vodka with cranberry if I felt fancy, my first Old Fashioned in Louisville a dozen or so years ago was a revelation. I found myself immediately enchanted by the history and the cachet of bourbon. And, of course, the taste.
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Although I’m not quite an expert, I have learned a thing or two over the course of my continuing bourbon education. Namely, genuine appreciation for a well-made Manhattan. It’s the small details that define a good one—the spirits selection, the glass, the garnish.
Traverse City Whiskey Co. understands this. Hence, the distillery’s gourmet cocktail cherries have become my go-to finishing touch on a model Manhattan. Owner Chris Fredrickson sources Northern Michigan Balaton fruit straight from his family’s own local orchards, slow-cooking it with bourbon in copper pots before jarring for distribution. Originally created exclusively for cocktails at TCWC’s Stillhouse tasting room, the product quickly proved popular enough to start selling on its own, which the company did in 2018.
These savvy-but-not-snobby cherries have found a nationwide following among discerning bourbon drinkers for their almost-meaty bite and authentic flavor—a far cry from saccharine grocery-store maraschinos, yet more approachable (and at $16, more affordable) than their well-known Italian Luxardo counterparts.
If you can stop yourself from eating them straight from the jar, a few of these babies with a spoonful of the luscious syrup make for one helluva cherry Coke. Mash one at the bottom of your Old Fashioned.
Traverse City Whiskey Co. recently launched a line of canned seltzer Whiskey Highballs—and the cherries play nicely there as well. Four-packs ($12.99) offer a choice of original bourbon, citrus, and cherry flavors, each containing 5 percent ABV. They are “actually made with real bourbon and no substitutes,” Fredrickson says. As with the cherries, the authenticity shines through. Sweet.