Maraschino cherries have been a popular cocktail garnish since the late 1800s. They are a classy way to accompany drinks like Tom Collins, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Aviation, and many other of our favorites.
However, they are also somewhat expensive. At least if you want the original. Therefore, if you want to save some bucks, you can make them yourself. Learn how to garnish your next cocktail with a homemade Maraschino cherry.
What kind of cherries should I use?
I used regular, ripe, and dark red cherries to get that outstanding sweet cherry flavor. In general, it is crucial to use firm and ripe sweet cherries with stems intact.
Choose varieties like Bing, Rainier, or Queen Anne cherries for their vibrant color and natural sweetness. Avoid using sour or too tart cherries, as they might not provide the desired flavor profile and will change the overall taste of the final cocktail cherries.
How to Make Homemade Maraschino Cherries with Alcohol
Making homemade Maraschino cherries is fairly easy and only requires a few ingredients and a bit of time. Fresh cherries, cherry juice, sugar, and Maraschino liqueur are the main ingredients to make this classic garnish for cocktails. quite
For most of us, it's difficult (or impossible) to get either Marasca cherries or the non-alcoholic Sangue Morlacco juice. These two ingredients are the main ingredients of authentic Maraschino cherries.
Therefore, our homemade Maraschino cherries will be an imitation (unless you can get real Marascas). But one that's way more natural and closer to the original than the neon-colored imitations -also often referred to as modern Maraschino cherries- you can see on supermarket shelves.
Ingredients you need
- Fresh cherries: The cherries, in turn, should be sweet. Usually, the color is a good indicator of the level of sweetness: the darker the cherry type, the sweeter it is.
- Tart cherry juice: Ideally, the cherry juice should be unsweetened to bring a bit of tartness into the mix. Alternatively, you can add a little bit of lemon juice.
- Sugar: you can use regular caster sugar or a darker type for more flavor in your simple syrup; -Turbinado or Demerara work fine.
- Almond extract: almond flavor is one of the fundamental elements in homemade cocktail cherries. The subtle almond notes are what make the original Luxardo cherries so good.
- Maraschino liqueur: To get that typical Marasca flavor into your homemade Maraschino cherries, you best make them slightly alcoholic. It's best to use Luxardo Maraschino liqueur to get that characteristic sweet and slightly almondy flavor.
- Cinnamon stick: A regular, whole cinnamon stick will do and bring some spiciness to the cherries.
- 1-2 cups water
Additionally, you can use a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and one teaspoon of vanilla extract to bring even more flavor into this tasty cocktail garnish.
Tools you need
- Cherry pitter: You will need a cherry pitter or a sharp knife to remove all the stones. Maraschino cherries traditionally come without the pit, so you don't have to worry about removing them elegantly when sipping your drinks. The pitter will make your life much easier, and the cherries will stay intact. So if you can, use one. Additionally, you will need a saucepan, a preserving jar, and a large spoon.
- Jar with lid: To keep your cocktail cherries fresh for a long time, store them in your fridge in an airtight container like a jar with a lid.
How to make the best homemade Maraschino cherries
- First, you have the pit your cherries. If you want to keep the stem, that's a fiddly task. You have to be very careful and pit them from the side. I don't care about the stem and save myself the trouble. Plus, the original cherries also don't have it. Normally, only the imitation cocktail cherries have it.
- Once you have removed all pits, get a saucepan and start making your syrup. For that, you add the sugar, some water, the cherry juice, and the Maraschino cherry liqueur into the saucepan and turn up the heat. Stir until the liquid starts to boil and the sugar dissolves, then reduce the heat. That's already the syrup in which you will soak your cherries.
- If you want to cook out the alcohol, pour in the Maraschino liqueur together with the other syrup ingredients. If you plan to keep a bit of booze, wait until the sugar dissolves and add it after turning down the heat.
- Finally, add your pitted cherries to the syrup and let them simmer, and soak up all the flavors at low heat. You don't want the cherries to become mushy, so keep checking their consistency. After 10 - 15 minutes max, remove the saucepan from the stove and let your mixture cool down.
- Once the cherries are cooled, add them into a preserving jar together with the syrup and close it with a lid. The ratio should be approximately 50:50 - half cherries, half syrup.
How to make Maraschino cherries without liquor
Most, if not all, of the alcohol from the liqueur, will cook out during the process. However, if you're serving to kids and have to be 100% sure that your homemade Maraschino cherries are alcohol-free, you can replace the liqueur with an extra tablespoon of almond extract.
The almond extract will bring the distinct almond not to the cherries. The resulting cherries will taste less complex but are still a delicious garnish for desserts or a Shirley Temple.
What are Maraschino cherries?
Maraschino cherries are sweetened and preserved cherries of the Marasca variety. That is a species original to the Dalmatian region in Croatia. They used to be an add-on to the Luxardo liqueur made from said cherries since medieval times. They are dark in color, sweet in taste, and -contrary to common belief, non-alcoholic.
Only cherries from the Marasca variety are legally allowed to be labeled as Maraschino. For others, producers need to include the word imitation or stick to cocktail cherry or similar terms.
These imitations are bright red, almost neon-colored cocktail cherries. Those with an artificially sweet taste that many serve instead of authentic Maraschino cherries because they are more affordable and easier to get. So, if you thought, Maraschino cherries would be bright red and unpleasant to eat, you now know you had the imitation, not the real deal.
How are real Maraschino cherries made?
To make original Maraschino cherries, producers soak their marasca cherries in Maraschino syrup. This syrup consists of a cherry juice called Sangue Morlacco. That juice is also required to produce Maraschino liqueur.
There is no food coloring or additional preservatives involved in the recipe. And the final product has a sweet but pleasant taste.
If you want to know more about the original or how the imitations are made, you can read this article about Maraschino cherries.
- 1 cherry pitter
- 1 sauce pan
- 1 large spoon
- 1 preserving jar,
- 0.5 lb sweet, dark cherries
- 0.5 lb caster sugar
- 5 oz unsweetened cherry juice
- 3 oz Maraschino Liqueur
- Pit your cherries and put them aside for a moment
- Make the syrup for soaking your cherries by adding sugar, juice, and liqueur into a saucepan. Boil the mixture until the sugar fully dissolves.
- Let the mix simmer at medium heat for a few minutes to cook out the alcohol from the liqueur, if you want to. Make sure it's only simmering, not actually boiling.
- Now, add the cherries to your saucepan and reduce the heat further. Let the cherries soak up the syrup at a low simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from the stove and let the cherry-syrup mix cool down.
- Fill your homemade cocktail cherries in a preserving jar - half cherries, half syrup- and store them in the fridge until the next time you mix your favorite drinks.