Cocktail cherries are a common garnish in drinks so it’s not much of a leap to liquor up the cherry filling of a crisp with some bourbon.
For this cherry crisp the fresh fruits are pitted but left whole for a substantial bite, sweetened with a bit of sugar and boozed up with a splash of bourbon. The vanilla and caramel notes from the alcohol are a natural pairing with the sweetness of in-season cherries.
Pop it in the oven and the soft, boozy fruit cooks to become a jammy, cherry-studded filling peeking out from underneath a mantle of crisp buttery oat and almond laden streusel. Serve it still warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, for the quintessential summer dessert.
What Are the Best Cherries to Use?
Regardless of the type of cherries you decide to use, make sure your cherries are firm and plump. Avoid cherries that look shriveled or blemished.
Both dark, sweet Bing cherries and bright red tart cherries work well in crisps. You might have to adjust the amount of sweetness based on the cherry you use, but either will work. However, my favorite cherries for this recipe are Bing cherries.
- Bing cherries: They are plump and sweet, readily available, have a long season and are more affordable than other cherry varieties.
- Tart cherries: have a short season and you are limited in where you can find them – think farmers markets and pick your own orchards. You will also need to add more sugar when macerating the fruit to offset the tartness.
- Rainier cherries: These yellow-blushed beauties will also work in a crisp, but they are costly and will give this dish a milder cherry flavor compared to other cherry varieties.
- Frozen cherries: You can use frozen cherries in crisp too, which is perfect because cherry season can be short. Just thaw them first. You may need to add an extra 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch to account for any extra liquid from frost.
Cherry Pitter: The One Single-Purpose Tool I Own
I rarely buy any single-purpose tools but a cherry pitter is one of the exceptions. It makes the pitting process so much easier.
A pitter is not absolutely necessary though. You can cut the cherries in half and remove the pit that way.
- Quick cherry pitter tip: I find it easier to position the cherry on its side rather than from top to bottom in the pitter—it seems to be more precise in finding the pit.
Let’s Talk About Streusel
I am of the opinion that a crisp, being named “crisp,” should have a lot of streusel and not just a thin layer. So, my crisp may be more streusel-forward than other recipes. The buttery, crunchy, oat and almond laden topping kind of makes the dish IMO.
It’s helpful to chill the streusel before topping and baking the crisp so that the clusters retain their shape better. Otherwise, the streusel will melt into the fruit and is more likely to come out soggy.
Also, like pie, you want to make sure there is some ventilation for the steam to escape, so don’t layer the streusel evenly from edge to edge.
Swaps and Substitutions
Although the bourbon adds oaky, caramel, and vanilla notes to this crisp, it can be left out completely.
In the filling you can replace the bourbon with:
- A splash of vanilla and lemon juice.
- Dark rum
In the streusel you can:
- Leave the almonds out.
- Use pecans instead.
- Play around with the ratio of oats and flour. (It’s pretty forgiving.)
How to Serve, Store, and Reheat
While this crisp is best served just slightly after it comes out of the oven with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, it can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature or reheated.
It can also be covered, refrigerated, and served chilled or warmed over the next couple of days, preferably for breakfast. The streusel will start to soften the longer it sits so it’s best to eat it as soon as possible.
More Cherry Recipes You Can’t Resist:
Bourbon Cherry Crisp
- For the filling
- 1 1/2 pounds (4 1/2 cups) (710 grams) fresh sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
- 3/4 cup (157 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (29 grams) cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- For the streusel topping
- 3/4 cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (81 grams) quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 11 tablespoons (156 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, divided
- 1/4 cup (21 grams) sliced almonds
Preheat the oven and pit cherries:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Stem and pit the cherries by using a cherry pitter or cutting cherries in half and removing the pit. Discard the pits and place the cherries in a large bowl.
Macerate the cherry filling:
In the bowl with the cherries add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and bourbon. Stir to coat. Let the cherry mixture sit and macerate until juices release and it starts to get saucy, about 15 minutes.
If your kitchen is cold you may not need to chill it for the full 15 minutes, if it's warm you might need the full chill time.
Make the streusel topping:
While the cherries macerate make the streusel topping.
In a large bowl add the flour, oats, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Toss together with your hands. Add the 10 tablespoons of cubed butter to the mixture. Squish the butter together with the dry ingredients by pressing it between your fingertips and your thumb.
You will end up with some pea-sized pieces and others the size of a walnut.
Gently toss in the almonds. It’s ok if they don’t completely mix in with the streusel. Chill the streusel in the refrigerator until the cherries have macerated for 15 minutes and you’ve transferred them to the pie plate.
Assemble the crisp:
Transfer the cherry mixture to a deep dish pie plate or an 8x8 inch square baking dish. Dot the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cubed butter.
Grab a small handful of the streusel topping squeezing it in your fist, to form larger clumps, then scatter it over the top of the cherries.
Continue squeezing and scattering evenly over the cherries until you’ve used up all of the streusel. You will end up with both large and small clumps of streusel.
Set the pie plate onto a rimmed baking sheet to catch any juices while the crisp bakes.
Bake the crisp:
Bake the crisp, until the topping is browned and cherry juices have bubbled through parts of the topping, 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let the crisp cool for about 10 minutes.
Spoon the crisp onto plates while still warm and top with a scoop of ice cream.