I was thrilled to read David Lebovitz's post about cherry leaf wine or guignolet. Although there is a commercially available aperitif by the same name, his post provided a recipe for the homemade version, which uses cherry leaves and other ingredients to flavor inexpensive red wine. Because we have two small cherry trees that didn't produce this year, we thought this recipe might be a great way to make some use of them. We also have a lot of great spices sitting around from a trip last year to Saudi Arabia, so it was a win-win. The spices, especially the cardamom, really seemed to pull together the flavors of the wine and cherry leaves and added a nice aroma.
David makes the point of saying you should use the cheapest wine possible. We were a bit nervous how it would turn out, so we took his advice to heart and used Trader Joe's merlot for our first batch. Our friend Perrine, who owns Perrine's Wine Shop, suggests a Cotes du Rhone would do nicely as well. Note that the recipe calls for a liter of wine, which is a bottle and a third, so be sure and pick up two bottles.
Once mixed, you should let it steep for at least a day at room temperature in a covered container. It will open up and develop more flavor as it sits. We finished our jar in about 10 days, and it was just as good as when we started it.
To serve the guignolet, you must permit yourself to add ice to your wine. David goes to great lengths to explain how this practice is more common in France than you think. Certainly there is no need to be high minded about two buck chuck. If it helps, think of it like a French sangria, which is pretty accurate when it comes to the flavor. In fact, I would encourage a garnish with fresh cherries or a peach slice. It is excellent any time you would serve sangria. We enjoyed it as a transition between cocktails and wine.
1 L red wine
1/2 C vodka
1/2 C sugar
50 cherry leaves
4 green cardamom pods, cracked
10 coriander seeds
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with lid. Stir daily for about 10 days. Enjoy!