Life is dandy, cherry brandy

The cherry tree full of sour or "pie" cherries in my backyard is bursting with fruit, on the cusp of fermenting in the extraordinarily hot sun. Late summer came in mid-June this year,  and I need to deal with these cherries before every wild bird in the neighborhood gets drunk on them or a black bear fells this old, giving tree!

What to do? Make something to give myself a late summer buzz, of course. Thoughts turn to Wizniowska, the Eastern European cherry vodka I tried in Slovakia many years ago. My old cousin Mike makes it every year with his cherries and some of the best vodka that side of the Polish prairie. Just like here, hot sunny days and cool nights. As we sat in the backyard of his farmhouse, in a meadow next to the Slovak-Ukraine- Poland borderland, cherry vodka entered my memory palace in the best way. The old man put one of his wife's shawls on my shoulders, fired up his little grill, and handed me a small, plan glass of cherry vodka. As he grilled homemade kielbasa, I watched the tangerine and rose sunset over the low hills, studied the old wood planks on his shed, and relaxed with this drink knowing that all of these smells and sights and tastes had been a part of my DNA all along.

It's so easy. Pick, wash and put some sour cherries. Put them in a mason jar (but do not pack it), add 1 tbsp sugar, and fill with good vodka. Put a tight lid on the jar and put it in your pantry for at least two weeks and up to 6 months. You can strain the cherries out before you serve, or just have them for dessert! This vodka looks beautiful in a decanter.

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 The church where my ancestors are buried in eastern Slovakia, on the night I first tasted cherry vodka in July 1998

The church where my ancestors are buried in eastern Slovakia, on the night I first tasted cherry vodka in July 1998