Sour cherry mojitos by the pitcher

Good-quality white rum, 3½ cups
Sour cherries, pitted, ½ pint
Juice of 10 limes
Sugar, ¾ cup
Water, 1½ cups
Mint leaves, torn, ½ cup
Soda water, 1¼ cups

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in water to make a simple syrup. Add syrup to pitcher.
2. Macerate cherries in syrup at the bottom of the pitcher. Always do this step before the others to allow the cherries to marinate in the syrup and release their juices. 
3. Juice limes with a juicer. Alternatively, if you are juicing by hand: Warm each fruit for 20-30 seconds in a microwave. Roll on cutting board before cutting each in half. Poke each half thoroughly with a fork, then use the fork to use apply pressure and get more juice out. Add juice to pitcher and stir.
4. Add mint leaves and muddle. 
5. Chill until ready to serve. Add soda water and stir briefly immediately prior to serving.
6. Pour through a strainer into tall glasses, spooning some cherries into each glass. I recommend leaving out the mint leaves, or spooning just one or two into each glass, since the soda water makes them float. The cherries, however, sink, and are extraordinarily delicious.

Serves: 8-10

The story:
My sister and my cousin Liz during our family reunion
Outer Banks, North Carolina, July 2012
I love tart, sour fruit, and the sour cherries were freshly picked at the farmer's market on Thursday morning (where I, in all sincerity, briefly welled up with joy at the lush, humid verdancy of my native East Coast and the array of fruits and vegetables my native climate, well, produces). Originally, I planned to make jam for the crostini in this recipe, but we have a lot of family in town for my cousin's upcoming wedding, and I was reminded of the fresh mojitos I mixed during our family reunion in the Outer Banks last summer...and instead, came up with this cocktail, a twist on the black cherry caipirinha (possibly my favorite cocktail anywhere) at Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia, one of my favorite bars and restaurants, with its gorgeous, evocative dark wooden floors and paneling. Like the black cherry caipirinha, this mojito also produces succulent pops of cherries at the finish of your drink. 

Tonight, I'm sitting on my deck with a mojito, watching dusky periwinkle clouds glide across a perfect blue sky - after a spectacular day hiking (reveling in things like MUD(!), and fallen trees covered with velvety moss, and tiny, perfect frogs), and eating moules-frites (while my son dipped his fingers in one his favorite things, truffle aïoli) and drinking Three Philosophers (one of my favorite things) at Ommegang Brewery - and it is perfect.

Update: I had a lot of amazingly delicious rum-soaked sour cherries after serving these mojitos, so I added another half pint of sour cherries to the remaining liquid, let them soak overnight, and then reduced them to a syrup over low heat (barely a tablespoon of liquid was left). Then we made a vanilla bean ice cream and poured in the cherries at the end. Try it!

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