I was surprised to find cherries at the farmer’s market over the weekend and wanted to do something special with them. This mocktail is rich and robust but still refreshing and perfect for warm summer days. Roasting the cherries with the vanilla bean and maple syrup brings out their sweetness and the smoky black tea and lemon add complexity and a touch of acidity. And if you want to get crazy, try adding some tequila or bourbon.
Roasted Cherry Soda
1 cup cherries, cut in half and pitted
2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon loose leaf smoky black tea like keemum
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using the back of a small knife, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean pod and into a bowl. Add the vanilla bean pod, the cherries and 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Toss to coat the cherries. Transfer to the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until soft and bubbling. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, steep the tea in 1/4 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Place the cherries and any syrup left on the baking sheet into a blender and pulse a few times until a chunky puree forms. Strain the cherry puree through a fine mesh strainer into a jar. Add 3 tablespoons of the steeped tea, the lemon juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Stir to combine.
Divide the syrup between two glasses, top each glass with ice, 4 ounces soda water and a cherry to garnish.