Update: MYO Maraschino Cherries

The first test run of the cherries was a big hit.  They’re not as strongly flavored as artificial cherries but the flavor was still good.  There was not a big syrup component to them despite the amount of sugar which makes me think that more than the 2 tsp that I originally used might be needed depending on the size of the jar you’re using.

My first jar was a 16 oz jar which drank up the sugar pretty quickly.  I’m thinking something closer to a cup of sugar per 2 cups of liquor would be a better ratio.

I’ve additionally found that some reniers have come into season.  The cherry crop is early this year due to the short warm spring so they’re on the store shelves now.  I took an 8 oz jar for this batch and functionally tripled the sugar from the first attempt.

The first jar went to a small gathering and was used for a couple of vesper cocktails and a few manhattans.  They were pronounced very passable and I think the next batch with slightly more sugar will be even better.  Next attempt after this is to try the same with sour cherries, provided I can find any at the farmers market in the next 1-2 months.

Since it’s only been about a week on the first jar I’m putting it back into soak with some extra sugar and a small amount of vanilla extract just for some fun.

store cherries

As an aside a trip to one of the better stocked liquor stores in the area netted me the following photo.  Those are Luxardo cherries, from the same people who make the liqueur that I’m using to make my own.  And yes the sticker is correct. That is an ~13 oz jar going for $22.25.  Nothing wrong with them at all, they make a fine cherry and the syrup can be used for a number of things after you’re done with the fruit.  But a 750ml bottle of the liqueur will run you about the same and that’s enough for 3-4 small jars easily.


Make Your Own: Maraschino Cherries

In the category of “put-up or shut-up” I present to you my current project.

Oregon is really the second best place to do this, (the best being Italy).  The cherry trees are plentiful, there are a number of different varieties to choose from and we have a long happy growing season all summer.

Step one is almost solved for you, find some good cherries.  Much like making a pie sour cherries are nice for this kind of things but Mascara cherries are actually sweet so go wild.  I think next time I do this I’m going to find some nice yellow and red ranier’s to give the whole thing some splash.  Pit your cherries and remove any stems.

General ingredients and equipment:


1 mason or ball jar with a self sealing lid
enough cherries to fill the jar without having to force them
2 teaspoons of sugar
enough maraschino liqueur to cover the cherries

Step Deux: Fill the jar with enough cherries that it’s not going to be a problem to get the lid on.



Step the Third: Add a small quantity of sugar (2 tsp).  I recommend bakers sugar if you have it, it’s finer grained and will dissolve much more quickly.



Step Quatro: Fill the Jar with Maraschino Liqueur.  For this run I’m using Luxardo, If I run out I’m going to see if I can find a different brand.  Nothing bad on Luxardo I just want to shop around.



Step the Last: Close the Jar, shake until the sugar is fully dissolved, refrigerate.  Shake the jar a couple of times a day to keeps things mixed up, and check the jar in a week or so to see how they’re coming along.

Side note: Like most things you make yourself these do not have anything in them to act as a preservative.  Even if you’re using canning jars the process we use here isn’t sterile and won’t hold up like freezer jam.  Once these start going they won’t stop so plan to use them once they get to the right concentration.  If you need a reason I can comfortably point you to my Hard Cherry Limeade which benefits from a good garnish.

Rant: Maraschino Cherries

I quote to you here from The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks

“American growers favored large sweet cherries (a different species, Prunus avium), and they had developed a brining process that involved bleaching them in sulfur dioxide, which removed all the color but could also turn them to mush.  To solve that problem, they added calcium carbonate (widely available at plaster and paint stores in those days) to harden them.  What was left was described in one American agricultural report as nothing but bleached cellulose “in the shape of a cherry” that was then dyed with coal tar, flavored with a chemical extract of stone fruit called benzaldehyde, and packed in sugar syrup.”

This ladies and gents is why maraschino cherries suck.  The flavor comes not from the fruit but from a windowless building in New Jersey.

Oregon is blessed when it comes to fruit.  There are at least five  farmers markets within a 10 minute drive of my home where I can purchase any of a dozen varieties of cherry fresh off the tree.  An hour behind the wheel and I’m standing in an orchard with a wicker basket ready to pick my fill.  Swing a recently deceased feline and I’m sure I could hit a neighbor with a neglected Bing Tree behind his house.

Other places are not so lucky, but even then, why in the world would you want to eat those little bright red death-balls when you can get the yellow/red perfection of a Rainier.

Make your own

Buy a Better Cherry

The difference here is really one of flavor.  Both recipes call for maraschino liqueur but the luxardo actually use Mascara cherries which are a sour cherry as opposed to the sweet dessert cherry you’re likely to find at the supermarket or the farmers market.

Wry Grin

Wry Grin

I’ve purchased a bottle of Bulleit Rye Whiskey at the recommendation of a friend.  I was shifting through my copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, (the book that honestly started all this mess to begin with) and found that with my current bar stock the next best thing to add would be a good rye.

Rye Whiskey makes an appearance in at least 10 drinks in the book and of the other likely candidates was the only one I hadn’t tried yet.  At the above mentioned friend’s birthday a bottle was around and making some fantastic manhattans.  I had already run through the stock of cherry liqueurs that I had brought for the purpose of making hard cherry limeades and had a few odds and ends left around.  This drink was the result and it has been a smash hit ever since.

1oz Limeade
1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
2oz Maraschino syrup

Shake, strain into glass over ice.

The flavor has been likened to a jolly rancher, which to my mind simply means sweet but if done properly you get more than a nice dash of both cherry and rye flavors without a lot of burn.  Alcohol flavor about 1/10.

Hard Cherry-Limeade

cherrylimeadeAs promised, my drink of choice in variable recipe format.

Cherry Limeade in general is something that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid.  In the southwest we had Sonic Drive-ins all over the place and their cherry limeade was a big hit in our family.  A little cherry 7-up, a little limeade,  the lime wedge and maraschino cherry garnish had all the right kinds of things for a growing kid to get hooked on.

When we moved to the Pacific Northwest you can imagine my devastation when we discovered that car hops and Sonic were unheard of in the overcast & perpetually damp corner of the country we now occupied.

That all changed several years ago when the franchise finally made the leap out here but in the interim I had experimented with the creation of the Cherry Limeade at various points when I was working food service.  Most memorably, during a stint as an Ice Cream jockey, where unmonitored access to cherries and a soda fountain on long hot Sunday afternoons was the norm.

When I started looking at making my own cocktails this was the first thing to come to mind.  Fresh juice, a little sweetness and some cherry flavor and you can knock this out of the park.

As I explained in my Limeade Recipe,  the basis of this entire enterprise is finding a good measure of lime flavor.  Without that base you’re lost in the woods and could wind up with something too tart, cloying or worse.  Experiment with small shots first before you step up and if you don’t like the mix adjust the lime juice or syrup.   Even adding a dash more water can even things out.  Once you find your ratios then you need only expand them up to full drink size. (Or even to a punch bowl if that’s your pleasure.)

The Recipe

3 oz Limeade
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Cherry Liqueur
1/2 oz Kirschwasser (Cherry Eau de vie)
Splash of club Soda
Maraschino Cherry (garnish)
Lime Wedge (Garnish)

Shake the first 4 ingredients in an iced shaker, strain into a Collins glass.  Top with club soda and garnish.


For my own version I’m currently using an ounce of Volstead Vodka, half ounce of Clear Creek Cherry Liqueur and half ounce of Clear Creek Kirschwasser.  The Volstead has almost no burn at all front or back so it’s like a vodka ninja.  The Clear Creek Cherry is as close to a ripe Bing cherry as you’re likely to get in a bottle.  I haven’t had a chance yet to compare the Clear Creek Kirsch with any of the other brands but I’m happy with about 99% of their other stuff so I’ll stick with the local brand for now.

This mix gives it a nice kick, good cherry flavor, nice color and some subtle nuance from the kirsch that you might otherwise miss in a stronger drink.

For walking around I do about 4 times this amount in a large water bottle and then top with club soda.

Some Variation:

If you want something with a bit less punch, drop the vodka and up the two liqueurs to an ounce each.  You don’t get much of a drop that way but it’s enough to keep it from being a serious slap.

To be more clear:  I recommend trading the cherry liqueur for Maraschino liqueur.  I use Luxardo, I’ve heard there are several better ones but this was one I was able to find in the (pitiful) selection of the liquor store up the street.  And until I’ve finished the bottle I’m not going to invest in another.

If you want to do this on the cheap, a bottle of cherry 7-up and a bottle of Simply limeade with a splash of vodka can do the trick.  It’s not anywhere near the complexity of the cherry flavor you get with either of the above but there’s less mixing and no fuss.

As a cocktail, I like this one without soda most of the time but you can vary your drink a bit with either club soda or some citrus soda.  If you use a sweet soda like sierra mist, sprite or 7-up you can usually avoid the simple syrup in your limeade.  Having both is going to kill any other flavors you might have used with the sugar content playing solo the whole time.