The original maraschino cherries were a variety called marasca from Croatia, and that’s where the name comes from. But today’s maraschino cherry is a completely different animal. The modern American supermarket maraschino cherry (usually a variety called Queen Anne) is soaked in a salt brine to remove its natural color and flavoring…then pitted and soaked in a sweetener for around a month. The final step of dipping in artificial coloring gives the modern maraschino its neon red color (or any other color desired).
So why would any self-respecting bar that takes pride in its cocktails serve you these vile, rancid cherries? Especially when there are some incredibly amazing alternatives?
If you pride yourself in the quality spirits you drink…if you understand that every ingredient counts–from the mixers down to the quality of the ice cubes–then you need to get the right cherries for the job!
Luxardo cherries have always been the standard by which other cherries are ranked, and for good reason. Sip a Manhattan made with Luxardo cherries, and you will never go back to what you had before. It’s why they go for about $25 a jar and they are worth every penny. These are made with a recipe that dates back to 1821 in Italy, using genuine marasca cherries and their syrup.
A recent trip to what has become my new favorite restaurant in Providence, RI, a tiny 20-seat restaurant called birch, opened my eyes to yet another fantastic cherry:
Amarena Fabbri wild cherries: made in Bologna, Italy since 1905, these are wild cherries that are carefully harvested and stoned, then preserved in amarena syrup. (The amarena cherry is a small, dark, bitter cherry grown in the Bologna and Modena regions of Italy.) Packaged in beautiful blue and white Opaline jars, I can’t think of a better gift for the avid mixologist. Also about $25 a jar.
Both the Luxardo and the Amarena Fabbri cherries are avilable at Amazon.