Homemade Sour Cherry Brandy (Visinata or Vishniak)


Wikipedia: Vişinată is a Romanian alcoholic beverage made from sour cherries, traditionally homemade.

UrsaBear on Chowhound:  “wishniak or vishniac” is  “the very soul of Eastern European Jewry, my friend, or at the very least its quintessence.”

Warning: Long involved story follows. Bottom line:  I am brewing my own cherry brandy or vishniak (or vishniac or wishniak, or visinata). I am making two batches, one from an online recipe, and one from my mother’s friend who is from Romania. Lanie S. tells me that the batch should be ready by Rosh HaShana and I should serve it with honey cake.

(update: done!)

For Part 2, see here for the fermentation results for July through September
For Part 3, see here for what the finished visinata looks like, both the Lanie S. version and the Homebrew Underground version

A number of years ago, my mother raved about her friend’s cherry brandy. My mother, you should know, is completely disinterested in all things alcoholic. She said her friend had to go out of her way to get the sour cherries needed for this homemade booze. Hmmm, interesting I thought, mentally filing it away for future reference.

So, anyway, the farmers market in town had sour cherries two years ago that were amazing. We ate them all, so I never got around to the brandy thing.

Then last year, when I went to buy the sour cherries, the farm stand was all out.  The nice lady behind the counter told me that someone got there ahead of me and bought up all their cherries to make a big batch of brandy.

“It’s just like the Angelina Ballerina episode where one of the mice hogs all the blackberries to make jam,” my husband mused. “Your mother took all the blackberries and you knew all the time,” he quoted in the vaguely slavic accent of the mouse Anya.

Sour cherries have a very short season (sometime in June to the first week or so of July), so you really have to be ready to pounce when they come in. This year I returned home triumphant with three 1 lb. bags.

I looked up the recipe for cherry brandy online. It didn’t occur to me to ask my mom about her friend’s recipe. I mentioned my project to my dad, and he insisted I find out what Lanie S. does. He asked my mom, who was playing bridge that very night with her, but it was a hot game and the whole homemade booze thing got lost in the excitement.

Anyway, and I do realize this is a very long story, Lanie spoke to me about her recipe. She is from Romania, and her mom always made cherry brandy, or Vishniak. She explained that you make the brandy in June (when the cherries first come in season) and then it is ready to serve by the High Holidays in the fall. It is served with honey cake.

She also told me that I could use my remaining cherries in cake or I could make pies or tarts or put some cherries in kugel with farmer’s cheese.

Here is how she told me to make the Visinata: Put 2 cups of cherries in a really large jar with a cup of sugar. Do not pit the cherries, she warned, because the pits are critical to the fermentation process. Let the fruit and sugar ferment for 2 weeks. Then add vodka. Amount? “A lot.” Now let the whole thing macerate until September. The cherries can be pitted and dipped in chocolate to make bonbons.  Or the fruit can be ground up and mixed with biscuits to make bonbons. (Actually, you mix ground nuts, ground biscuits, cocoa, powdered sugar and butter to make a paste that you wrap around the cherries. Then you roll the bonbons in sugar or dip them in chocolate.)

I wieghed the fruit and 2 cups of it weighed about a pound. So the formula is 1 lb cherries, 8 ounces sugar, “a lot” of vodka. (Note: I intended to add 2 cups of vodka, but I only had about 1 2/3 cups of vodka left in the bottle, so that is what I used).


By the time I got Lanie S. on the phone, I had already made a batch based on online research. I saw that the basic formula seemed to be 1 lb. cherries,  3/4 cup to 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cup to 3 cups of vodka. There seems to be some disagreement about whether or not to pit the cherries. Some people crack the pits and add in the nut inside to give an almond flavor to the drink. Some leave some cherries unpitted.

I liked the recipe on HomeBrewUnderground, partly because it was so thoroughly documented with pictures and was very detailed. This recipe says to do the opposite of what Lanie S. said to do. Instead of starting with unpitted cherries and sugar, and then adding vodka a few weeks later, this recipe instructs to macerate pitted cherries in vodka for 4 weeks and then add the sugar. Then the recipe calls for macerating another 4 weeks, straining, and ageing 2-3 months.

Other recipes I saw, like the recipe on NotDerbyPie, called for mixing the cherries, vodka, and sugar upfront. So, veering from the Homebrew recipe, I combined a pound of pitted cherries with 3/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 cups of vodka. Actually, the Homebrew recipe calls for 3 cups of vodka and 1 1/2 cups of sugar, so I guess I am kind of winging it instead of following the recipe. We will see how this brandy come out as compared to the Lanie S. brandy.

Oh, and one more thing. I added some sugar and vodka to blueberries on a lark. We will see if they turn into a nice liqueur.

Lanie S. Visinata
This recipe incorporates many of the tips readers have provided below in the comments. But do take a look at the comments because readers provide many useful tips and recipe variations.

2 cups cherries, unpitted (1 pound)
1 cup sugar (8 ounces) (consider using turbinado sugar for better flavor)
1 1/2 – 2 cups vodka (can also use Tuica, Romanian plum brandy)

Combine the cherries and sugar in a jar. The jar should be covered with cheesecloth attached with a rubber band or a loosely fitting lid (fermentation gases need to escape, but you need to keep bugs from getting in the mixture). Let the mixture ferment at room temperature for 2 weeks.  During this period, regularly shake up the mixture to make sure that all the cherries are covered with sugar and everything gets evenly mixed up. Do this at least twice a day. Don’t shake aggressively, just gently roll everything around so as to not damage the fruit.

It is important to emphasize that this first period of fermentation can attract fruit flies. It is important to watch out for them and avoid any infestation.

The sugar will dissolve and the cherries will give up liquid. There will be a cherry colored liquid beneath floating cherries. The liquid will be slightly bubbling, like a barely carbonated beverage. There will be an overpowering alcoholic aroma coming from the mixture.

Now add the vodka and let the mixture macerate for another month. The mixture is not fermenting anymore and you can screw the lid on tight. You might want to strain the liquid through cheesecloth or coffee filters during this period to get rid of sediment. After filtering, continue to let the cherries and vodka mixture steep. The longer the mixture steeps, the more it mellows. The mixture will steep even better stored in a dark cool place.

Note: adding a few cracked cherry pits will give a slight almond flavor.

update: see follow-up post.

next update: see finished product!

Take a look at this post by Rivky Eisenberg about making cherry liqueur from a recipe from her daughter’s Belgian mother-in-law.

Here is another post about making visinata on Bulgarian Village Recipes. This blog also has recipes for Slivovitza (plum brandy) and the Bulgarian versions of cherry liqueur and strawberry liquer.

Here is a post at Food52 by Maria Teresa Jorge about making Ginjinha, Portugese cherry liqueur.

Here are instructions from Cooking in a Hallway for making Visinata. (Note: I think Cooking in the Hallway is co-written by a Romanian transplanted to Ohio).

Update: Gourmet Gatherer made the Lanie S. visinata recipe in 2012 and 2013. Here are their notes from 2012 and from 2013 (which includes discussion of other liqueurs that they make, including Rose Petal Liqueur, Elderberry Mead, Damson Wine and Limoncello.

Another update: Renee (see comments below) wondered why her visinata came out dark colored. This had me wondering about how Kirsch, a clear eau de vie, is made.

To make a true eau de vie, you just use the fruit, and the natural fruit sugars ferment and produce alchohol. The fermented mash is then distilled. It is hard to make at home, unless you have access to a still. These forum posts indicate that this sort of homebrew distilling activity goes on in France, at least.

Westford Hill Distillers has some interesting information about eau de vie making on their site. They say that it takes 5 lbs. of Montmorency cherries to make a single 200 ml. bottle of their kirsch eau de vie.  Here is a picture of their still and more information about the process. And here is a bit more information, including the explanation that aging in barrels is why some fruit brandies are brown rather than colorless.

The New York Times had article on the topic of eau de vie. Want more? Here is an interesting article from Make. And here a discussion of schnapps, the German term for colorless fruit brandies (like kirsch)

Note: I have been advised that the only proper name for this beverage is Vişinată.

It should also be noted that versions of this liqueur can be purchased under different names.  I found a Polish version bottled as Wisniowka and Croatian version called Wishniak. And, I think, in Russia it is called Vishnevka (or vishnnyovka?). Israel (Binyamina Winery) makes a version called Wishniak. (a Polish speaking poster on an EFL forum , in a discussion of the use in English of the word “wishniak,” says that wisnia is Polish for a sour cherry or sour cherry tree, wisniowka mean cherry liqueur, and wisniak is a more alcoholic cherry brandy. Another poster found references to wishniak as a kosher for Passover liqueuer in the NYT archives from the late 30’s).

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70 Responses to “Homemade Sour Cherry Brandy (Visinata or Vishniak)”

  1. Vishniak Uppdate « Pragmatic Attic Says:

    […] is nearly two weeks since I first started brewing homemade vishniak. Just to recap, one container has a mixture of pitted cherries, sugar, and vodka. The other […]

  2. judy Says:

    I know it won’t be ready for the Holidays but I cannot wait to get started!!
    My husband is from Rumania and has been speaking of finding a out how to make this, for years. Well, I finally looked it up.
    Here goes!!!!???

  3. Visinata and Honey Cake « Pragmatic Attic Says:

    […] and Honey Cake By pragmaticattic Well, the visinata (or cherry brandy or vishniak) is ready. Time to serve it with some honey cake . . . Cherry Brandy Homebrew Underground Based […]

  4. Ana Says:

    I am Romanian and have made Visinata since I was little. There is no need to wait months to enjoy it. Within 4 weeks after the vodka is added it is ready to drink. Also, one thing I didn’t see you mention… during the 2 weeks that the cherries and the sugar are fermenting, you should shake the bottle at least twice a day. It is very important. If you don’t, you will find yourself with some cherries that haven’t fermented correctly. Also, the best way to speed the process is to put a cheese cloth on the top of the bottle to let the air out. And once the vodka is added, store the bottles in a very dark cool place such as a pantry or basement. You will see a faster production time by storing the bottles differently.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks for visiting my site and offering such great advice, Ana! I will keep your comments in mind the next time I make visinata. I’m sure your tips will also be very helpful to anyone else who visits this site and wants to make visinata. It is really great to hear from someone with so much experience in making this drink.

      • Ted Says:

        Ana is right. But why keep them dark after adding vodka, but not during the initial fermentation period? Also, have you tried other types of alcohol like tuica (Romanian plum brandy) or flavor-infused vodka?

        One thing I’d like to add is I like to use natural raw turbinado sugar instead of white because it’s more natural and less processed. I think the result is a bit “rounder”, mellower sweetness.

      • Ted Says:

        Also forgot to mention, be sure to use several layers of cheesecloth to keep the bugs out. We now use a few paper towels instead, kept tightly wrapped with rubber bands. When you take it off to stir it up (or shake it), be careful not to allow anything inside. This is a perfect breeding ground for fruit flies. It’s only an issue in the initial fermentation phase; they can’t live in an alcoholic environment. I’m also vigilant about inspecting for larvae growing on the inside wall of the jar, so I’d wipe it down every few days. They look like a little tiny piece of rice or brine shrimp or something. And don’t think that because you’re careful about not letting them in that they don’t exist. They lay their eggs inside the fruit – we just usually eat them up before they have a chance to hatch and reproduce. Hence, when you have a couple then you’ll soon have thousands if they’re not taken care of. My mom once had an infestation in the jar and we ended up having to throw out the entire gallon jug. Never again!

    • James Says:

      I have a question????

  5. Renee Says:

    Hey! I just started making some of this last week. I’m doing both kinds like you did, and the one that starts with sugar instead of vodka is starting to mold. Is this normal or did i just not sterilize everything enough?

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      I’m so sorry that you are having problems with making the visinata, Renee! I’m not sure why you are getting the mold.   Ana just posted a comment that it is important to shake up the cherries often to make sure that they ferment properly.   I did a quick search about mold and liqueur making and found that someone commented that if some fruit is exposed above the sugar and not properly covered by it, that piece of fruit can go moldy. (Maybe this is why it helps, as Ana suggested, to often shake up the mixture)   It is also possible that one of the cherries was moldy. Cherrries are very perishable and sometimes there is a bit of mold by the stem. I think that making sure that your container is clean is important, but it is also important to inspect your fruit.   Thank you for posting your results–this is very helpful to me and to other people who want to successfully make visinata.

      • Renee Says:

        Thanks for the help! I scraped the mold and put it into a new sterilized container, I’ll keep an eye on that one, the others haven’t had any trouble. It just so happens that that’s the one I made two batches of haha, so at least I’ll have one come out ok.
        I’ve been shaking them every day, but I guess I’ll have to do the recommended two shakes per day!
        Thanks so much!

      • pragmaticattic Says:

        Good to know you have things back on track, Renee! Let me know how your batches come out.

  6. fofu Says:

    In reference to your blueberry version, in Romanian is called afinata. It can also be made with raspberries and it is called zmeurata. My father used to make all three, and as a teenager he would let me eat one or two of the alcohol infused sour cherries. We actually had a sour cherry tree in our yard so we always had a supply in early summer.

    One more thing, in Romania it is usually made with tuica or palinca, which are plum or pear brandy’s, not vodka, although it works with vodka too but it is not as good.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks, Fofu! What great information. So my blueberry brandy has a name . . . who knew? Very interesting about using plum brandy. I know about slivovitz (also plum brandy), but I had never heard about tuica. Fascinating . . . We had a cherry tree (and pear trees and blueberry bushes, plus strawberries, blackberries, and grapes) in our backyard, but we never thought to do anything but eat the fruit (but the birds beat us to lots of it).

  7. jeanne Says:

    Thanks for a great recipe and website! I was wondering do I need to put a lid on the mixture or leave it open to let air in. I just added the vodka today and have the mixture in a gallon pickle jar with th lid on. Thanks for your help!

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Hi Jeanne, thanks for visiting my site.
      Short answer: keep the bottles tightly covered.
      Longer answer: At the the earlier stage, when the cherries and sugar are fermenting, gas gets generated. Ana (see comment above) suggests cheesecloth for this stage. Once you add the alcohol, the fermentation stops and you can tightly cover the bottles.
      Good luck and let me know how it comes out!

  8. jeanne Says:

    Thanks so much! I can’t wait to taste it in September!

  9. Renee Says:

    Just to update on how it went for me…
    I did it a few ways
    1. unpitted cherries in sugar, then vodka
    2. pitted cherries in sugar, then vodka
    3. unpitted cherries in vodka, then add sugar
    4. pitted cherries in vodka, then add sugar
    5. pitted cherries in vodka with cracked pits, then add sugar

    The unpitted cherries in sugar, then vodka (the Lanie way) is my favorite, it’s got sort of a chocolatey flavor.
    The pitted cherries in sugar, then vodka tastes just like drinking a cherry, numbers 3 and 4 seemed about the same as 2
    The one with the cracked pits has more of an almond flavor like you said it would.

    They’re all awesome, but mine all came out a really really deep red, so I feel like I must have done something different.
    It was a great experience, and I may have to try the blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries now.

    I’ll be using my leftover pitted cherries to make cherry cordials, you just dip them in sugar fondant, let them dry, then dip them in chocolate. the alcohol in the cherries liquifies the fondant so you have liquid inside your chocolate shell.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Renee!!!! Thank You!! What a wonderful update. Thanks for sharing the results of your experiments. Very interesting and very useful. The cherry cordials are a great idea. Lanie told me that is a great thing to do with the cherries. Are you going to use purchased fondant, or are you going to make your own fondant? Please let me know how they come out.

      • Renee Says:

        I’m using this recipe for the fondant
        I’ll be making the fondant today, then dipping my cherries tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it went in a few days!
        Thanks so much for all your help through this!

      • pragmaticattic Says:

        Wow, that was a fast response! Thanks for the fantastic link. I never saw this blog before. I made fondant in pastry school this way, and I remember finding it, shall we say, arduous? In the eighties a woman named Helen Fletcher figured out how to make fondant in a food processor. If you are interested in checking out this method, you can see a step by step turtorial at Joe Pastry. I have not tried this method, but it looks way easier than kneading by hand. You just boil the syrup, put it ina food processor, cool it to 140 degrees and then process away. Good luck and let me know how it comes out!

  10. Renee Says:

    Oh wow, that does sound easy! I’d never made fondant before yesterday and it turned out really well, it wasn’t difficult either, but I only made half of the recipe I was using, so it cooled a lot faster I’m sure. The Cherry cordials turned out perfect, the alcohol was really strong at first, but the longer they sit with the fondant the more they mellow out.
    I think if I ever need to make a larger amount of fondant, I’ll use the processor method. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Oh, fantastic! I’m so glad that the cherry cordials came out well. Congratulations on sucessfully making your own fondant. You have me thinking about making my own cherry cordials (with, yes, my own fondant!). Thanks again for sending that great link. It looks like a great recipe, and a great site in general.

  11. Adrian Says:

    Congratulation! That is an excellent article. I’m Romanian by birth and I have enjoyed Visinata many times and I would like to add some facts.

    Alcohol is to be added after some period of fermentation. Adding alcohol from the beginning is plain wrong. Alcohol kills everything and is an an fantastic preservative. It freezes everything in time. Have you see Snake wine where the Cobra is perfectly preserved? That’s what it is.
    So adding alcohol from the start you will freeze the taste or sour cherries and sweetness from sugar.
    What you want is the sour cherries (Visine in Romanian) ferment for a while grace the sugar that also blends and softens the raw sourness or the fruit. You want to reach the balance as the drink should not be sweet at all as a good part of the sugar is naturally transformed in alcohol.

    My family including my grandparents were making wine and brandy for several generations and they were supplementing their income by selling both of them. My uncle was one of the largest exporters of wine to North America and Japan and he was often participating and winning international competitions.
    Despite that they would have never thought of selling Visinata as it was considered quite special. Moreover, every time when I was visiting them they would have insisted in giving me as much high quality wine as I could carry (usually 20 liters) but they never volunteered Visinata. That I had to ask for and I never got more then a couple of bottles.
    So Visinata is something to share with friends and family when they visit.

    Visinata is usually made in 20-20 liters glass containers the same as the one used for wine. After is done is usually moved into ole style milk bottles that have the advantage of having a larger neck so the fruits can go easy in and out of the bottle.
    Visinata is usually served in 2 -3 inches high cylindrical tumblers and normally one to 3 sour cherries are added to the glass. One can use a tea spoon to extract the cherries but more often just tilt the glass until the cherries roll out.

    Un-pitted fruits are better but sometimes they are hard to come by so it’s important especially for the un-pited ones not to be mashed. You want the fruit to remain as whole as possible without creating excessive suspension. So please don’t shake the container bur rather gently roll it.

    The Visinata Sour cherries could be used in baking, on top of ice cream or whipped cream tarts. In baking will work well and you can substitute them for berries.
    As a teenager I was offered a couple of Visinata cherries but not more than that as they could be quite strong. Think of liquor filled chocolate and you get the gist.

    A couple of years ago I saw a Sour Cheery Brandy made in US. I immediately bought it thinking it might be Visinata.
    What a foolish thought.
    It must be another drink all together – sweet, strange artificial aftertaste. no personality. I wonder why I still have it in my cabinet. Who knows maybe one day I decide to poison somebody…

    While is not uncommon for people to refuse beer and wine I have yet to hear of something refusing Visinata. Even people that drink once every five years :). It has a very smooth pleasant taste equally enjoyed by people that drink only dry wine and the ones that drink very sweet wine.

    One last thought … One made Visinata could last forever but if you resist the urge to finish it in one year it means you messed up the process…

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks, Adrian, for sharing so much wonderful, useful information. I understand what you mean about alcohol freezing things and preventing the changes that come from the fruit and sugar fermenting. I also think your point about gently rolling rather than shaking to prevent breakdown of the fruit is very helpful. There is actually an American version of visinata called cherry bounce. It is also a homemade drink. But I don’t think that is what you bought!

    • Renee Says:

      Thank you for that, I enjoyed reading it!
      I’m from America and had never heard of this until I read this blog, and as you can see from my comments above I tried a lot of variations and the way you’re talking about turned out the best. Everyone loves it!
      I did shake the bottles though, next time I won’t.
      This has been a great learning experience for me!

  12. CBGreek Says:

    My boss is Romanian and introduced me to this amazing adult “kool-aid” last year! He makes the sour cherry, blueberry and raspberry variations but by far my favorite is the sour cherry. I decided to give it a try this last June and ordered 10 lbs of sour cherries. I used a 5 gallon water jug that comes with the lid (thank you water delivery guy!) to make it in and followed the directions he passed on to me that came from generations of elder Romanians. I used @9 lbs of sugar and mixed it with the cherries in the bottle. After 3 days in the sun, shaking the mixture 3x daily, I brought it inside and added 2 750ml bottles of 150+ proof vodka. I stored in it my basement and shook it up every day for 2 weeks. Then I added 3 liters of 80 proof vodka and 2 liters of 40 proof vodka. I put it back in a dark corner of the basement and let it sit- shaking it up once a week or so. Well- the holidays are here and I’m ready to bottle this delicious stuff in 16oz bottles and pass out as gifts to family and friends! It tastes wonderful!! A gorgeous shade of ruby red, fruity and sweet. I even used 2 cups of it to make a double batch of jello shots for the office Christmas party. The best part is that I can keep adding vodka and let it sit- from what I understand there are people within the Romanian community that have containers of cherries and vodka that have been replenished for a decade or longer. I don’t think I will do that since I plan on using the cherries to honor one of my country’s (Greece) favorite drinks- vishinatha- cherries slowly cooked in a sugar syrup and placed in jars. You take the sweet cherries and syrup and mix in ice water for a refreshing and sweet cherry drink. I figure that the vodka steeped cherries will add an extra kick to my vishinatha! Next year I think I’ll try a small batch of mixed berry visinata- fingers crossed it will turn out every bit as good as the sour cherry!

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Wow!! Thanks for all that great information.What a wonderful idea for holiday gifts–I’m sure your friends and family will be thrilled. And thanks for sharing about the Greek drink. I took a look at Kochilas’s book, The Food and Wine of Greece, and she describes how to make spoon sweets with sour cherries (glyko vyssino) and then turn it into a drink. I also saw some great information on about.com and kopiaste.org. Is this how you make this drink?

      • CBGreek Says:

        similar! I think the only difference is that we cook the cherries with the sugar and juices instead of just the juice itself. The best part is eating a few cherries in the bottom of the glass once you finished your drink! We also mix it with Greek yogurt that we make or put on top of ice cream. Try it sometime! I’ll update the results once I make the vichinatha with the drunken cherries. Merry Christmas~ Kalo Chistouyena!

      • pragmaticattic Says:

        Ahh, so it is a bit like this recipe, then? Spooning it over Greek yogurt or ice cream sounds fabulous (cherries jubilee anyone?). Please do update! And best wishes for a very happy holiday with friends and family!

  13. Peter D Says:

    I am making visinata for the first time. I started with frozen fresh sour cherries.
    During the fermentaion process using the cherry-sugar method is it necessary to leave the jar open to the air, or keep the container closed tight.?

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Peter, in the initial fermentation stage, gases are created. If you keep the mixture closed, you need to regularly open it to release gases (at least that is what I did). If you read through the above comments, you will see that others cover their fermenting cherries and sugar with cheesecloth to keep out bugs and yet allow for the release of gases. See in particular Ana’s comments and Ted’s comments on Ana’s comments.

      If the cherries are frozen, they are probably pitted. I was told that the cherries not being pitted is important to the fermentation process. I’m not sure what happens to the fermentation process when the cherries are pitted. In the alternate method where you add the alcohol up front, it doesn’t matter if the cherries are pitted or not.

      Good luck, and let me know how it works out for you! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  14. Peter D Says:

    Thank you. I saw the comments and appreciate your reply. I have several batchs going right now with unpitted cherries. The Homebrew Underground receipe started with frozen pitted, so we will see what happens.
    Thanks again

  15. marilena Says:

    Hello.Wher you get your frozen sour cherri?

  16. Mary Says:

    What a great post! I have been using frozen, pitted sour cherries but will wait until I can get some fresh ones to try this. It sounds delicious!

  17. the preserving begins! « HAUTE NATURE Says:

    […] scrumptious sour cherries. Besides freezing many for supreme cherry pies, I am going to do this and this with them! Happy […]

  18. Paula Says:

    Thank you, everyone, for the treasure trove of information on making delightful cherry drinkables. I’ve made honey liqueur for years and recently branched out to raspberry liqueur, but Wishniak is something I’ve wanted to make since I first tasted it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

  19. Brooke Says:

    Did you do this in an air tight container? If not, what if the cherries started to mold?

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Brooke take a look at the other comments on the page for more on this topic, especially my response to Renee’s comment about mold:

      “I did a quick search about mold and liqueur making and found that someone commented that if some fruit is exposed above the sugar and not properly covered by it, that piece of fruit can go moldy. (Maybe this is why it helps, as Ana suggested, to often shake up the mixture) It is also possible that one of the cherries was moldy. Cherrries are very perishable and sometimes there is a bit of mold by the stem. I think that making sure that your container is clean is important, but it is also important to inspect your fruit.”

      You need to keep the lid somewhat loose to let fermentation gas escape. Some people use cheesecloth to cover the container. This won’t make the cherries moldy. Mishandling will cause them to go moldy (see above).

  20. Dave Says:

    Here is my cousins recipe “Croatian Version Visnje “Cherry” Brandy

    1 liter Vodka (Smirnoff – 80 Proof)
    2 1/2 lbs Sour Cherries
    3 1/2″ cups Granulated Sugar

    1) Make sure the cherries have pits and no stems
    2) Place all ingredients into large glass jar
    3) Leave jar exposed to sunlight for 40 days
    4) Stir contents every 2 or 3 days
    5) Strain contents into another jar
    6) Press & Strain the solid sour cherries and mix that liquid with the liquid from step #4
    7) Stir the liquid and ENJOY!!!

  21. Vishnick - Sweet cherry wine, or maybe it's a liqueur - Advice for bottling? - Page 3 Says:

    […] you follow a link in the email, you end up at a more detailed explanation: https://pragmaticattic.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/homemade-sour-cherry-brandy-visinata-or-vishniak/#mor… They are definitely not adding the vodka up front, but later on after some sort of fermentation […]

  22. euterpe Says:

    The traditional Greek recipe for visinada (sour cherry liqueur) is the following :

    Wash cherries, use a wide glass jar that has been boiled beforehand. Layer cherries, sugar, cloves and cinnamon (don’t use too much of these). Fill the jar then add either vodka, brandy or raki (home made). Leave in the sun for 3 months, either stirring or shaking regularly. Strain through cheesecloth into bottles.

    Cherries, whether sour or regular, should be ripe.

    Most women’s monasteries in Greece sell their home made liqueurs to visitors. I use our own raki (tsiporo) because it has such a wonderful aroma.

  23. euterpe Says:

    After straining the liquid the cherries that are left can be frozen and then used in various ways. But be careful – because of the high alcohol content in them it’s quite easy to become tipsiy……………..

  24. salbatica Says:

    Hello – after 3 trips to Romania, and 2 to my fiance’s house, I’ve been given 4-5 L of this wonderful drink so i know what authentic tastes like. My girls grandfather makes it with tuica. What he does is this: He gets 1,000 kg of grapes and crushes them for wine. The left over crushed grapes he stews then pitches yeast. After its fermented, he distils this and makes the ~ 80 proof/ 40% alcohol called țuică. He takes whole, un-pitted, un-touched sour cherries (vișine) and layers these in the glass carboy with sugar/cherry/sugar etc. He leaves them for 3 or so weeks in the fall then pours in țuică (italians call it grapa). This is mixed and left in 55 gallon oak barrels in his celler and we go pour into jugs in the fall/winter.
    I’ve made around 5-6 gallons here in the states using vodka but its nothing like the original. If you get used to this flavor, you may not actually enjoy the original because of the different flavor given from tuica. I like both of course and can’t wait to refill my stock.

    Anyway good luck, have fun, and enjoy one of the best drinks from Romania. Just remember, the hardest part is distilling. You can do this legally in nevada where I live, as long as you don’t sell but its illegal most anywhere else.

  25. Peter D Says:

    If you like the flavor imparted by the țuică….traditionally made with plums….plum brandy bascially, try fortifying your cherry mixture with Slivovitz. It is readily available in the states and may come closer to the traditional flavor you dewscribe in your post.

  26. Reada Says:

    This stuff is wonderful! We live in NV and have two sour cherry trees. You can only eat so much pie and cobbler… then I saw your post and decided to try it. Not sure if I used the same amount of vodka in each. The pitted cherry / vodka then sugar (strong and bright red) the whole cherry layered with sugar and then vodka (cloudy and more complex flavor) Thank you! I will be making more this summer 🙂

  27. Rob M. Says:

    I’m going to try making this using frozen sour cherries. At least here in Kansas City they’re available (pitted) with the other frozen fruits at the supermarkets. I bought mine at HyVee.

    Fermenting the cherries for a time makes sense, because it will reduce the sweetness that the original amount of sugar called for would cause. Without turning some of the sugar into alcohol through fermentation the drink is likely to be tooth-achingly sweet!

    It looks like there are versions of visinata or wishniak from all over Europe. It’s a traditional Portuguese drink, too, where it’s called ginguinha. (There are recipes online.) That version is made with clear brandy or grappa, with the addition of some whole cinnamon and cloves that steeps with the drink. It sounds virtually identical to the Greek version described above. I can certainly see how this would be delicious using tuica or slivovitz or grappa as the alcohol instead of neutral spirits like vodka. Those fruit-based brandies will add additional fruit flavors to the visinata.

    As noted, using whole cherries with their pits will add an almond-like note to the flavor of the drink. If you are using pitted cherries, as I will be doing, you can very likely achieve the almond note by adding a few bitter almonds (apricot kernels) or a small amount of bitter almond extract to the cherries during fermentation. If you do this, start small — bitter almond is a very powerful flavor that can easily overwhelm the finished product. For each quart/liter I plan to start with three or four bitter almonds (if I can find my supply) or a teaspoon or two of extract. You can always add a little more extract or a few more bitter almonds if you feel it’s necessary after you’ve tasted the visinata when you’re ready to bottle it and let it age. If you use bitter almonds, strain them out when you’re ready to serve the drink. Another possibility would be to buy some sweet cherries, pit them, and add the pits to the fermenting sour cherries. The pits of both kinds of cherries have the almond-like flavor that’s desirable in this drink.

  28. Bill Says:

    I amdoing (1galsweet cherries/16 cups sugar/ 3 gal. 80proof brandy. What is my expected alcohol content hope you can help thanks

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Sorry, I don’t know how to calculate that. But, maybe one of my readers can help?

      • Kevin Says:

        I have a question about the fermentation process… You said to ferment for two weeks. Is this the optimum amount of time? If you leave it longer does it change the flavour or alcohol content or does it loose benifit after that amount of time? I have a sweet cherry tree in the back yard and am picking right now. Saving all the perfect cherries to eat, or as many as we need anyways and the rest all go into jars for trying this project… I was just curious and have been reading all of the comments and suggestions… I’m very excited to try..

  29. Kit Says:

    this is a great blog.
    I am Ukrainian and remember growing up with sour cherries fermenting in big great glass jars. I am now grown up and have a sour cherry tree in the backyard. Will pick the cherries today and will give this a go.
    I found Spiritus (polish grain alcohol, i think) in a liquor store in New York and am going to try to use that instead of vodka. Has anyone tried it that way?
    thanks for all your tips! can’t wait to get this going.

  30. Mick Says:

    Greetings to all Cherry Brandy makers,
    I am trying to make the brandy by adding cherries to sugar in a 2:1 proportion, and have covered it with a cloth and left it for 2 weeks. Twice a day I have rolled the content. I have noticed that in the morning before my first rolling there is a complete layer of bubbles like a froth which is yellow in colour, and is relatively firm. After rolling it the bubbles look light and are not bonded to each other. Tomorrow the 2 weeks are over and I am going to add Brandy instead of vodka. The stiff froth in the morning, could it be Fungus/mold. May I request urgent feed back from my friends
    Best regards, Mick

  31. Bert Says:

    hello I have never made this but have brewed many wines and beers over the years it seems that setting it out in sunlight is not the way to go as it could help mold to grow but I am going to try it both ways and will use a fermentation trap to keep bugs out . I planted 28 sour cherry trees a few years ago but this is the first year I have got a fair crop approx. 400- 500 LBs or 225 KGs so I am going to try brandy – rum and vodka .
    thanks and any other uses for sour cherries please let me know the pies jams and ice cream are great

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks for sharing. Please come back to post your results. Take a look in the comments for information about dipping the cherries into chocolate to make candies . . . .

  32. Bert Says:

    hello so I started 2 batches approx. 20 lb . 24 hours ago and do not see any juice yet do you know how long before I can expect to see juice should I be concerned yet? thanks for replying so fast last time

  33. Bert Says:

    Wow I don.t think this will last 6 months man it is very good I have to have a glass every so often to check on it’s progress (wink wink ) everyone who has tasted it loves it I did add some cherry juice from the same cherries and added a small piece of cinnamon stick to some of it and I like it the best I will make it again and my brother keeps asking if I am going to make more I ended up with 14 liters of finished vinisata. thanks for the post

  34. So Many Cherries Take You So Many Places | Many Cha Cha Says:

    […] Europe, and there are lovely recipes online including some for the Romanian Cherry Brandy called Vişinată or a similar Russian version called Vishnnyovka. There are also great blog posts showing how to […]

  35. ira[era] Says:

    I was born in moldova,we had a lot sour cherry,and we made a lot of Wishniak,but we neve pitted the cherry,becouse a lot of healthy V-s is there,and when you pit them you loose a lot of juice,were never used water to add.ONLY cherries,sugar,vodka and now i use london dry gin

  36. Ernesto Vlahovic Says:

    In Croatia it is called Višnjevica or Višnjevača.

  37. Cady Vishniac Says:

    Hey! I tried your recipe and it came out great. Also, did you know some people’s last name is the same as this drink?

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