A Brief History

By Ben Pierce

Anacapa Cherry Co. Sweet Tart Bourbon Cocktail Cherries is truly an American creation. We use a specific type of cherry called a “Balaton Cherry” to make our Cocktail Cherries and the story of how this cherry came to America - and ultimately to our jars - is truly remarkable. 
When communism came to the nation of Hungary after World War II, Hungary was arguably the largest producer of tart cherries in the world. The new Soviet government introduced big collective farms, and Soviet scientists decided which cherries the farms should grow. 
They hired some breeders to go around to all the villages and collect all the varieties they could find and planted them in a common garden where they would pick the best cherry, one that would then go on to these big cooperative farms.
The cherry trees of the small village of Újfehértó's won this beauty contest and Hungarian fruit experts gave them a name - Újfehértói Fürtös, which means "Bunched of Újfehértó" - and distributed cuttings to orchards across the country. 
One day in the early 1980's, Amy Lezzoni, a cherry breeder at Michigan State University arrived in Hungary and saw Újfehértói Fürtös for the first time. For Iezzoni it was love at first sight. Noting that unlike American tart cherries, the Újfehértói was firmer, with a deep burgundy flesh and a sweet-tart flavor making it delicious to be eaten right off the tree. Believing Americans were ready for a different kind of cherry she hatched a plan to introduce this particular Hungarian variety into the United States.
Convinced that Americans were not going to embrace anything named “Újfehértói Fürtös” she looked at a Hungarian map and found the only word an American could pronounce was Lake Balaton. Ironically Lake Balaton is nowhere near the village of Újfehértó; lying on the western corner of Hungary while the village is far to the east, near Ukraine and Romania.
In recognition of how special this cherry is to the people and culture of Hungary, for every Balaton tree sold, a royalty payment goes back directly to the cherry's home village of Újfehértó.