This month, VinePair is exploring how drinks pros are taking on old trends with modern innovations. In Old Skills, New Tricks, we examine contemporary approaches to classic cocktails and clever techniques behind the bar — plus convention-breaking practices in wine, beer, whiskey, and more.
When crafting cocktails at home, most drinks lovers know that quality spirits, fresh citrus, and homemade syrups make for the best results. Many avid home bartenders care, too, about their bar tools and glassware, and usually have large ice cubes on hand for when the occasion arises. But there’s one element that is often overlooked by even the most discerning mixologists: the garnish.
Too often seen as an afterthought, the right garnish serves a larger purpose than just presentation. It can add to a drink’s aromas, enhance its flavors, and even be a delicious snack. So why don’t they get the attention they deserve?
While some popular garnishes are more convenient to have on hand (think citrus peels and fresh herbs), others require more effort. One such garnish is the cocktail cherry, often served in beloved whiskey cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Last Word, and Manhattan. While picking up a jar of these rich, syrupy treats is always an option (these are some of our favorites), crafting your own Maraschino cherries is easier than you’d think, and is a great way to up your cocktail game and impress your guests.
The key to any good cocktail cherry is the addition of Maraschino liqueur — Luxardo being the most widely available option. The brand has been crafting its own Maraschino cherries since the late 1800s, and has even managed to name a variety of cherry after itself. But the simple recipe can be easily adapted at home using any dark cherry variety, fresh or frozen.
Matteo Luxardo, export director at Luxardo, says the secret to quality cocktail cherries “is using high-quality ingredients — from the cherries, to the sugar and juice.” And with ripe, juicy cherries in season, there’s no better time to make a batch or two to keep in reserve for fall. Made with tart Maraschino liqueur, baking spices, and zesty citrus, these cherries will give your cocktails a pop of flavor and a dash of Instagram appeal.
Luxardo Cocktail Cherries Recipe:
- ½ cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup sugar
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- The paste from 1 vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cherries (about 1 pound)
- 1 cup Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
- Add all ingredients except cherries and liqueur to a saucepan, and stir together over medium heat until simmering.
- Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for around 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to reduce.
- If using fresh cherries, pit and remove stems.
- Turn the heat back to medium, add the cherries, and simmer for around 7 minutes, until the cherries soften.
- Remove from heat, remove cinnamon stick, and stir in Maraschino liqueur.
- Cool, transfer to jars, and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.