Vampire Burgers (a.k.a. Black Mocha-Rubbed Burgers with Bing Cherry Blood Sauce, Bitten Cheese and Roasted Garlic Slaw)

Pairs well with:

Cabernet Sauvignon

This rich red easily complements your homemade chicken dishes, red meats, game, and mildly seasoned pastas.


For Bing Cherry Blood Sauce:
2 pounds fresh Bing cherries, stems removed
2 tablespoons almond oil, divided
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup cherry liqueur
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup beef broth
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For Roasted Garlic Slaw:
2 heads of garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons almond oil
1 1/2 tablespoons cherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups shredded green cabbage

For Burgers:
2 teaspoons ground coffee
1 teaspoon black cocoa (such as King Arthur’s Black Cocoa)
2 teaspoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup grated onion
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack
6 slices “bitten” cheese (big-eye swiss)
6 Kaiser rolls, split
3 ounces red and/or black food coloring


Prepare a medium fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium.

To make the sauce, heat a large fire-proof skillet on the grill. Coat the cherries with 1 tablespoon almond oil; pour mixture in heated skillet and close grill cover. Roast until the cherries begin to burst and are very aromatic, about 15-20 minutes, stirring once. Remove pan from grill and set aside until cherries are cool enough to pit.

Place a heavy-bottom, 2-quart, fire-proof saucepan on the grill. Add the remaining tablespoon of almond oil, then stir in the onion, garlic and orange zest. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the chipotle and cumin, then the tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste darkens slightly, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the Cabernet and cherry liqueur and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid reduces and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the orange juice, broth, mustard, maple syrup, and salt and bring to a simmer. As the sauce comes to a simmer, pit the cooled cherries, discarding the pits. (Pit the cherries over a large bowl to save juices.)

Stir pitted cherries and any remaining cherry juice into the sauce, reserving about 1/2 cup of cherries. Cook the sauce at a gentle simmer (adjusting grill heat if needed), stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Transfer sauce in stages to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and stir in the reserved cherries. Continue to gently simmer for 15 more minutes. Remove from heat, loosely cover and set aside to let flavors meld.

To make garlic slaw, remove excess skin from garlic heads. Use a sharp knife to cut the tops off garlic heads, exposing the top of each clove. Drizzle olive oil into the garlic, allowing the oil to seep down in between the individual cloves. Wrap each head tightly in a piece of aluminum foil and place on the grill over medium heat. Cook 30-40 min or until cloves are soft when pressed. Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a small knife to cut the skin slightly around each clove. Use a cocktail fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. Place roasted garlic cloves in a blender.

Add almond oil, cherry vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt to the blender. Puree all ingredients, stopping to scrape down any chunks of roasted garlic. Drizzle mixture over shredded cabbage and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate.

To make burgers, increase grill heat to medium-high. Mix coffee, cocoa, brown sugar, pepper, coriander, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Combine ground chuck, onion, garlic and remaining salt in a large bowl, handling as little as possible. Shape into 6 patties to fit the bun size. Sprinkle rub evenly over the top and sides of each burger.

Brush grill grates with vegetable oil. When the grill is ready, place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. Place the cheese slices on the patties during the last 3 minutes of grilling. Brush the tops of the rolls with the food coloring (*see note) and carefully place the rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly for the last 2 minutes.

To assemble the burgers, spread cherry sauce over the cut sides of the buns (leave a little extra on the outer edges to allow for dripping and a true “bloody vampire” effect!) Place patties on buns and top each with an equal amount of garlic slaw. Add the bun tops and serve.

* I like to place a heart-shaped cookie-cutter in the center of the bun and brush red food coloring inside the heart. Then, keeping the cookie cutter in place, I brush the rest of the bun (outside the heart) with black food coloring. When serving, I often cut right through the center of the heart and place a toothpick “stake” for dramatic effect!