It’s not very often that we get a chance to celebrate a bicentenary in the cocktail world but last year marked 200 years since the inception of the revered liqueur Cherry Heering.
Established in 1818, Cherry Heering is thought to be the oldest Cherry Liqueur in the world. It was started by Peter Frederik Suhm Heering, who was a successful Danish grocer. He started producing his liqueur which he first called “Heering’s Cherry Cordial”, in a cellar shop trading in colonial goods in Copenhagen. He was 26 years old.
So popular was Heering in the first few decades of its existence that it became a successful worldwide brand—not to mention a favourite of European royalty. A supplier to the Royal Danish Court beginning in 1876, the liqueur would make its way to both the Imperial Russian Court and that of the Prince of Wales, in 1878. In 1901, the King of England followed suit, and, to this day, Cherry Heering remains a purveyor to Queen Elizabeth II.
So How Is It Used?
It wasn’t long before bartenders started incorporating it into their drink recipes. In 1915, Mr Ngian Tong Boon who is credited with the cocktail we now know as the Singapore Sling is believed to have used Cherry Heering at the Raffles Hotel In Singapore.
A few years later in 1922, the classic cocktail, Blood & Sand, which uses Cherry Heering as a key ingredient was created and named after a film from the same year that starred Rudolf Valentino as a bullfighter.
Dale DeGroff notes in an addendum to his The Essential Cocktail, “There are some products whose best brand is not a matter of dispute, and cherry liqueur is one of them. . . There’s no substitute for this world-class, wonderfully dry, versatile liqueur; if [Cherry Heering’s] not available, don’t make a Blood and Sand.”
From there bartenders have utilised the flavour of this classic liqueur in many popular drinks. While other liqueurs have come and gone, Cherry Heering has continued to thrive, become a must-stock item for both commercial bars and home-mixologists.
So How Does It Taste?
Now if you’ve never tasted Cherry Heering, it would be easy to assume from the colour, the thickness and the name that it is a liqueur of almost painfully sweetness. Yet the flavour is actually one of great complexity. Tasting of stewed plum and cherry jam, the liqueur has an unexpected fruit and almond tartness that makes it perfect in created balanced cocktails.
This misconception about how Cherry Heering would taste was so prevalent, that during the 1960s, the company was at pains to point out that the liqueur was neither a ‘woman’s’ drink nor heavy and syrupy. Many of the ads of the time for the liqueur used the description that ‘Cherry Heering is light and almost dry’ and that in fact is was a ‘liqueur with a real “refreshing” taste.’
Although how that taste is created is a secret, one that has been handed down over five generations, it is believed that it is the Danish cherries as well as the manufacturer that sets it apart. The fruit is crushed together with the stones, which give Heering its characteristic hint of almond. Herb and spices are added before oak cask maturation for at least three years.
The thing is, Cherry Heering is damn good. On its own, it makes a lovely after-dinner cordial. Yet it is most used and often the backbone of a host of popular cocktails. It was for this reason that Dutch spirits group De Kuyper acquired liqueur brand Cherry Heering from Danish producer Peter F. Heering for an undisclosed sum last year.
In interviews, De Kuyper CEO Mark de Witte has spoken about the liqueur fitting fully in line with De Kuyper’s strategy to ‘own the cocktail’.