Maraschino Cherries

I know Fridays are usually dedicated to classic cocktails here on Kitchy, but today, I’m doing a garnish for those cocktails instead. Today I bring you maraschino cherries. While it’s true, they’re not a cocktail, the cherries are soaking in liqueur and are then used as the finishing touch in several cocktails.  As a matter of fact, these babies are the reason I haven’t made some of the more standard classics. I wanted to wait to make a Manhattan or Old Fashioned until I actually had maraschino cherries. And I’m not talking about those sicky sweet, neon red ones. I’m talking about the real thing: cherries soaked in Maraschino liqueur.

Hard to believe isn’t it? I mean, these cherries don’t look like the maraschino cherries we all know so well. That’s because I made them the way they used to be made, pre Prohibition. Yes, these garnishes are themselves a classic. They’re actually from Italy originally and were made by marinating Marasca cherries in Maraschino liqueur which is itself a liqueur that’s made from the crushed pits of the aforementioned Marasca cherries.  How’s that for a roundabout way of creating something. They were imported to American in the 1890’s and could be found at the most luxurious hotels and restaurants. But once the cherry became popular, American found a way to make a cheaper version.

At first we just replaced the cherry. Instead of using the Marasca, Americans tended to use the Queen Anne.  They also started using less liquor and almond oil instead of the cherry pits. Then the Prohibition hit and as you all know, liquor was banned, which meant the Maraschino cherry was banned. But two things happened to prevent the Maraschino from only appearing in historical bartending books. First, maraschino cherry producers replaced the liqueur entirely with an almond brine, and then they started selling the cherries to soda counters in order to make a little extra cash. This is why those bright red cherries can now be found on every sundae from Hawaii to Cape Cod.

You’re probably thinking, “but Prohibition was repealed. Why do we still have those bright red cherries instead of the liqueur infused ones?” Simple. Money. It was significantly cheaper to produce the almond brine soaked version. So much so, that those same cherry producers lobbied the government to call those bright red, sicky sweet cherries we all know so well “maraschino cherries” even though there’s no longer a drop of maraschino liqueur anywhere near them. That is, unless you do what I did and make them yourself.

I’d never even considered making maraschino cherries until I heard from Pamela over at My Man’s Belly and Andrew at Eating Rules how easy they were to make. So, I ran right out and bought everything I needed to make my very own liquor-infused cherry.

And… Oh.  My.  God.

I can’t believe it took me this long to make them. I honestly don’t know how I’ve gone all these years without ever having eaten a real maraschino cherry. They are soooooo good. And what a kick! They definitely add a little extra something to all those classic cocktails.  But if you’re not in the mood to shake up a drink, the cherries aren’t too bad on their own, especially with a nice piece of dark chocolate.

Maraschino Cherries

  • 1 pound of bing cherries, pitted
  • 1 bottle of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Place the cherries into a large mason jar. Pour the entire bottle of liqueur over the cherries.  Place the jar in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 weeks.  (But they’re better if you can wait four weeks.)

Once they’re ready, add them to all your classic cocktails that call for a cherry or eat them by themselves.