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George Washington carried this brandy-based drink in his canteen

George Washington was a fan of port and Madeira wine, but when he traveled west across the Allegheny Mountains in September 1784, he commuted with a special drink: the brandy-based cordial Cherry Bounce.

This is according to Mount Vernon’s research historian Mary Thompson, who introduced us to an altered Cherry Bounce recipe on Mount Vernon’s website.

“We know that George Washington especially liked Cherry Bounce and even packed it in his canteens when he was on trips out to the frontier,” Thompson wrote in an email. “Mount Vernon has made it a number of times — it is really good.”

But beware, the spiced cocktail takes time to make. The cherries must be pitted, halved and mashed, and chilled with brandy for 24 hours. And then, once spices are added, stored for at least two weeks.

The liquor can be altered to fit your taste, according to this recipe in the Washington Post, which calls for vodka, rum, cognac, bourbon, rye or grain alcohol, depending on whether you want it smoky, sweet or true to its cherry flavor. Author and tester Cathy Barrow suggests serving it over pound cake or ice cream.

And at the Houston cocktail bar Julep, the cherry bounce is added to 100-proof bourbon, lemon juice, turbinado sugar, and bitters and then shaken with an egg white. “It is the perfect combination of sweet-tart cherries, lemony zing, and hearty bourbon,” Author David Alan wrote for Texas Monthly.

George Washington’s Bounce was more straightforward:

George Washington’s Cherry Bounce

10 to 11 pounds fresh sour cherries, preferably Morello, or 3 (1-pound, 9-ounce) jars preserved Morello cherries
4 cups brandy
3 cups sugar, plus more as needed
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
2 to 3 whole cloves
1 (1/4-inch) piece fresh whole nutmeg

1. Pit the cherries, cut them in half, and put them in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, carefully mash the fruit to extract as much juice as possible. Strain the juice through a large fine-mesh strainer, pressing the fruit with a sturdy spoon. (You should have about 8 cups.) Reserve the mashed cherries in the freezer or refrigerator for later use. If using jarred cherries, drain the fruit and set the juice aside before halving and mashing the cherries. Add any pressed juice to the reserved jarred juice.

2. In a lidded 1-gallon glass jar, combine the juice with the brandy and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover with the lid, and set aside in the refrigerator for 24 hours, occasionally stirring or carefully shaking the jar.

3. Bring 2 cups of the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Taste the sweetened juice and add more sugar, if desired. Stir in the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg, then cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool at room temperature. Strain, and discard the spices.

4. Stir the spiced juice back into the 1-gallon glass jar with the reserved sweetened juice. Cover loosely with the lid, and set aside for at least 2 weeks before serving, occasionally shaking the jar with care.

5. Serve at room temperature in small cordial or wine glasses. Store the remaining cherry bounce in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 quarts.

We’re closing out 2017 with 12 days of cocktails, a series of traditional and unusual holiday drink recipes from bartenders, mixologists and beverage directors across the country. Find them as they’re published here.