Mess Hall and Co. has the solution with its local cocktail cherries. Sourced from area farms, the tart cherries are preserved in demerara sugar, bourbon, cinnamon bark, tellicherry peppercorns, vanilla beans, clove and star anise. It’s a bit more gourmet than the "pour brandy into a mason jar of cherries" method.
The result is a cocktail cherry with a bit of a bite; both in the flavor department with a distinct tartness, as well as the texture department - given it still resembles a cherry and not a mushy, sugary blob. Obviously, they are best served in bourbon Manhatttans where they can release a bit of their herbal juice while absorbing additional alcohol from the cocktail. More than a garnish, if a cocktail is the entrée than these cherries are dessert.
Each jar of Mess Hall cherries is labeled with a hand-written batch number and that wonderful "Chicago, U.S.A." mark. They are available online or at Provenance Food and Wine in Lincoln Square and Logan Square. They also make ghost pepper mustard and seasonal apple rum butter.
See what our friend Anthony Todd at Chicagoist has to say about these fancy cherries.