Premium cocktail cherries are undoubtedly a splurge. But they instantly elevate any at-home drink—and this version comes with a story.

In the 1950s, Chris Fredrickson’s family was the first in Traverse City, Michigan, to plant sweet cherries, a departure from the area’s traditional tart varieties. Yet when Fredrickson opened his Traverse City Whiskey Company tasting room in 2015, he didn’t have a local source for cocktail cherries.

So he teamed with a co-op to create Traverse City Whiskey Company Premium Cocktail Cherries—dark Balaton cherries steeped in bourbon and slow-cooked in copper pots. The process yields a candy-like texture, intense fruit flavor and luscious syrup. They aren’t the only fancy cherries out there. (Italy’s Luxardo brand is legendary, and many supermarkets carry Oregon’s Bada Bings.) But for us, supporting a Midwest entrepreneur and local farmers is the cherry on top of a great home cocktail. $16 for a 21-ounce jar.

Premium cocktail cherries
Credit: Brie Passano

See our recipes for a Manhattan (left) and Shirley Temple (right) made with premium cocktail cherries. (Tip: The syrup in a jar of gourmet cocktail cherries makes a Shirley Temple that's way too good to waste on the kids!)

Think Outside the Glass

Premium cocktail cherries are way more versatile than electric red maraschinos.

BREAKFAST Try gourmet cocktail cherries spooned over pancakes and waffles or swirled into oatmeal and whole-milk yogurt. You can also drizzle the syrup into coffee or hot chocolate. (Don’t sweat the bourbon used in making Traverse City Whiskey Company’s cherries; the alcohol content is negligible.)

DINNER Use cocktail cherries to make a pan sauce for seared pork chops. While the meat rests, melt butter in the pan and add a sprig of rosemary and the cherries; season with salt and pepper. They also pair well with venison, duck and game. Or stir them into your holiday cranberry sauce to cut the tartness and add flavor depth.

DESSERT Forget dropping a lone maraschino cherry atop a fudge sundae. Spoon a few of these beauts, with their syrup, over vanilla, chocolate or butter pecan ice cream. They’re also ideal for topping pound cake or cheesecake.