Marisa Chafetz / Supercall

Entertaining
5 Cheerwine Cocktails to Make You Feel Like a Kid Again

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Almost every summer since before I could walk or talk, my family took a weeklong vacation to Sunset Beach, North Carolina. We would drive down from my hometown of Canton, Ohio and rent a house, often bringing along grandparents, aunts and uncles. On the way, we’d always stop at the Food Lion to stock up on supplies—fruit and veggies, plenty of pasta (we’re Italian, so there was always pasta), beach snacks and, of course, a case of Cheerwine. If you’re not familiar with this Southern delicacy, Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored soft drink that’s been made by the same North Carolina family since 1917.

My parents weren’t the hippie types who didn’t let us have soda (or pop, as we called it), but it wasn’t something they had around the house all the time, either. But during that one week in the summer, they would let my sister and me drink Cheerwine until our hearts were content (and filled with sugar), very few questions asked. Though we haven’t been back to Sunset Beach in some years, I often long for warm mornings on the beach spent sipping a cold Cheerwine and watching the cherry-red liquid stain the perfectly white sand.

I, a Midwesterner-turned-New Yorker, feel a deep longing for Cheerwine after only tasting its sweet nectar once a year as a kid. But others who grew up drinking the soda every day put it on an even higher pedestal. And now those folks are adults, and they’re making adult drinks with sweet and fizzy Cheerwine. So, to get my fix and help you get yours, I reached out to some of the best restaurants and bars in the American South for their tips on boozing up Cheerwine. And, boy, did they come through for me. Here, five new yet nostalgic Cheerwine cocktails.

Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
When you think of Mulled Wine, a steaming mug of deep red wine steeped with warming baking spices comes to mind. But at Fine & Dandy—a Jackson, Mississippi eatery serving elevated burgers and Southern comfort food (think smoked and fried baby back ribs with pepper jelly glaze, crushed peanuts, pickled onions and chives)—bar director Jonathan Webb doesn’t think that Mulled Wine needs to be hot, or even contain wine, for that matter. At Fine & Dandy, Cheerwine does just fine. “We thought it'd be a lot of fun to make a play on a traditional Mulled Wine using Cheerwine instead of a warm Pinot,” Webb says. “The applejack serves as a great backbone for all the wintery flavors of orange and cinnamon, which fit perfectly with the delicious cherry taste of Cheerwine." While this tall, refreshing beverage works perfectly during the winter in the South, friends up North should feel free to whip one up in the spring, fall or even summer when they’re craving a rich, spiced libation without the warmth. If you don’t have applejack laying around, any apple brandy will work just fine.

The Essentials

Laird's Applejack
fresh squeezed orange juice
Cheerwine
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
Cheerwine and bourbon are both Southern staples—and, as this cocktail proves, they work well when mixed together, too. Just ask Trace Conway, general manager of Charleston, South Carolina farm-to-table restaurant Butcher & Bee, who decided to infuse a very classic cocktail with the cherry-flavored soda. “Bourbon and cherries go hand in hand—think about a classic Old Fashioned, which is what we based our cocktail [Slumber Queen] on,” Conway says. “We chose Virgil Kaine Bourbon as it is also a local product and the best bourbon in Charleston." Conway reduces Cheerwine with sugar and baking spices to create a tangy syrup that’s similar in flavor to Cherry Heering. If you don’t have Virgil Kaine, this cocktail will taste great with the bourbon or rye of your choice.

The Essentials

Bourbon
Cheerwine Syrup
Angostura Bitters
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
Cheerwine is a nostalgic soft drink for many folks who grew up in the South, and their continued love for the sugary beverage into adulthood is the bona fide definition of a cult following. Josh Seaburg of Saltine—a Norfolk, Virginia seafood restaurant with a garden-to-glass cocktail program—has been devoted to the beverage since his teenage years. “I've been drinking Cheerwine since high school,” Seaburg says. “I'm a big fan of highly-carbonated drinks, so the ripping bubbles have always been a favorite.” He decided to give the drink a tropical tinge with vanilla-forward Plantation 5 Star Rum and tangy, fresh lime juice. “I also added Pimm's, a gin-based, bittersweet liqueur to add a little complexity,” he says. Served tall over plenty of ice with fresh citrus garnishes, this delicious drink is our new go-to when we’re in need of something ridiculously refreshing.

The Essentials

Rum
Lime juice
Cheerwine
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
Cheerwine is beloved for its mild cherry flavor. But when drinking it as a kid, you don’t think about how the fruity soda complements other ingredients. Turns out, the carbonated beverage pairs really well with all kinds of booze, whether you’re a fan of bitter or sour, or want to double down on the sugar. “I have a sweet tooth, so I wanted to enhance the drink’s existing sweetness with maple syrup and fresh strawberry juice while contrasting it with the boldness of Cabernet, amaro and dark rum,” says Paul Benkert, owner of The Bluebird Cocktail Room in Baltimore. This juxtaposition of sweet and strong strikes the perfect balance for an adult looking to elevate a childhood drink into something even more potable. But beware—the Look Homeward, Angel is downright chuggable. “The flavors are complex, the drink packs a punch, but it may sneak up on you!”

The Essentials

Dark Rum
strawberry juice
Cheerwine
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
Punch is a Southern staple with a long history—from Martha Washington to the Chatham Artillery, it seems that nearly every household and social group has their own recipe. For beverage director Patrick Kish of Charleston, South Carolina barbecue joint Swig & Swine, using crowd-pleasing Cheerwine for their house recipe was a no-brainer. "I wanted to make a punch-style drink that would be a long-lasting favorite for everybody,” Kish says. Along with Cheerwine, Kish adds Sierra Mist, sparkling wine and strawberry moonshine to create an approachable punch that pairs just as well with smoked meats as it does with a lazy summer afternoon.

The Essentials

Strawberry Moonshine
Sparkling Wine
Cheerwine

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