Summer Solstice Cherry Vodka // Winter Cherry Jam | Iori Kusano

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Preorder a flat of cherries in April from a farm in Yamagata, to be delivered in June as soon as they’re picked. You can do this online if you’re lazy.

Forget about this entirely.

Wake up one sunny, humid June morning to your autolock dinging. Hurriedly put on enough clothing to answer the door and accept your flat of cherries. Be briefly confused until you remember that Past You wanted Current You to know someone loved them, even if it’s just you.

Eat one perfect gold-and-scarlet Satōnishiki cherry and thank Past You profusely.

Dump your cherries into a colander and rinse with cold water. Pour off a cup or so of vodka from the bottle in the cupboard if you haven’t already drunk any of it.

With your good knife, score cherries one at a time. Most of them will be exactly the right size to fit down the neck of an Absolut bottle. Stuff your fruit into the bottle until it’s approximately one-third cherries. Whatever doesn’t fit can go into the cup of vodka (which will go into the fridge to be drunk next week), or straight into your mouth. Cherries that are noticeably softer or riper than the others should go into the drinking-soon cup or your mouth instead of the bottle!

Shove the bottle in the back of the cupboard to steep and set a reminder on your GCal for 小雪, around the end of November.

Eat any cherries that didn’t fit in your jar. Get back on the internet and place a pre-order for next year’s cherries.

When the cold comes around, pour yourself a drink and remember summer.


That memory of summer has carried you halfway through the winter, but you’re at the bottom of the bottle now, and you’ve got all these sharp snappy boozy cherries left, turned a little brown from steeping, and you could just eat them up straight and feel the vodka searing your gums–

But you could also make them go a bit further. There’s flavor in those bastards yet.

Tip the dregs of your vodka jar into a small non-reactive saucepan. Add about three tablespoons lemon juice and a quarter-cup of sugar to start (vanilla sugar is even better if you have it–and you should, because if you have a vanilla bean and a jar of sugar you have no excuse for not putting them together). Bring to a low boil. The cherries will release their soaked-up vodka back into the jam, so after a few minutes you will suddenly have much more liquid than you expected. Taste with a clean cocktail spoon and decide if you want to add more sugar.

Either way, lower the heat to a pleasant simmer and stir constantly. When the whole mess is about as thick as chocolate syrup, pour it off into a jar and let it cool before you put it in the fridge. Use a clear jar so that you can admire the color, which is like the best and bloodiest garnet in the world. If you lick the spoon after you scrape out the pot, you will burn your tongue and it will be absolutely worth it.

Serve on bread (crusty brown campagne for preference) spread thickly with clotted cream. Also great as a topping for plain skyr.

A spoonful stirred into the cup or held in the mouth while drinking black tea is also excellent; in Japan we call this “Russian tea.” I have no idea if it’s authentic, but it’s delightful.

Iori Kusano (Clarion West 2017) is a queer Asian American writer living in Tokyo whose fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine. Find them at

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