What Are Maraschino Cherries?

Maraschino cherries are frequently used to decorate drinks, sweets, and other food.

Sweet Candied Red Maraschino Cherries in a Bowl

They are famous for being bright red and having a sweet taste. However, a lot of individuals may not have knowledge about what maraschino cherries are or the process by which they are made.

Maraschino cherries are not a real kind of cherry. Instead, they are made by keeping ripe cherries in a mixture of sugar, water, and maraschino liqueur to preserve their sweetness. The cherries are removed from their pits and then left in the mixture for a few days.

This process gives them their unique taste and color. In the past, maraschino cherries were made using tart cherries from a specific area, but now they are usually made using lighter sweet cherries like Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold types.

Even though maraschino cherries are liked by many people, they can be the subject of disagreement and debate. Some people complain that they have too much sugar and use fake coloring. Some people doubt whether maraschino liqueur is safe to use because it is made from the leftover parts of cherries, like the pits, stems, and leaves, and may have a small amount of cyanide in it. But, lots of people still like maraschino cherries because they are fun and make their favorite drinks and desserts more festive.

What Are Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino cherries are a type of preserved fruit that are commonly used as a garnish in cocktails, desserts, and other dishes.

red maraschino cherries with stems

They are known for their bright red color and sweet, slightly tart flavor. Maraschino cherries are made from a specific type of cherry, called the Royal Ann cherry, which is grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

Originally, maraschino cherries were made by soaking sour marasca cherries in maraschino liqueur, an Italian spirit made from the pits, stems, leaves, and flesh of the same cherry. However, in the United States, most commercially available maraschino cherries are cured in brine, preserved in a sugar syrup, and dyed a vivid red.

While maraschino cherries are often associated with their bright red color, they can also be found in other colors, such as green, yellow, and blue. These colors are achieved through the use of food coloring.

Maraschino cherries are a popular ingredient in many recipes, and can be used in a variety of ways. They are often used as a garnish for cocktails and desserts, but can also be used in baking, cooking, and even as a topping for ice cream. However, it is important to note that maraschino cherries are high in sugar and should be consumed in moderation.

Origins and History

Maraschino cherries have a long and fascinating history that can be traced back to Italy and Croatia.

Bowls of tasty maraschino cherries

The sweet cherry used to make maraschino cherries is known as the marasca cherry, which is native to the Dalmatia region of Croatia. In the 16th century, Dominican monks distilled the wild marasca cherry to create a liqueur known as maraschino liqueur.

The whole marasca cherries were also preserved in this sweet liqueur, and these cherries were known as “maraschino cherries.” Merchants in Italy and Yugoslavia used the marasca cherry as a base and began producing maraschino cherries about 200 years ago. These cherries gained popularity in the United States in the early 1900s, where they were primarily used as a garnish for cocktails.

During Prohibition, the popularity of maraschino cherries grew, as they were used to mask the taste of bootleg liquor. In 1925, Ernest H. Wiegand, a professor at Oregon State University, developed a new preservation process for maraschino cherries. He used a brine solution to preserve the cherries, which were then soaked in sugar syrup and dyed red. This process allowed maraschino cherries to be mass-produced and made them accessible to the general public.

Today, most commercially available maraschino cherries are made using Wiegand’s preservation process. While the original maraschino cherries were made using maraschino liqueur and marasca cherries, the modern version of these cherries is made using a different type of cherry and a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, and food coloring. Despite this change, maraschino cherries remain a popular garnish for cocktails and desserts.

Types of Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino cherries come in different varieties, each with its unique flavor and texture. Here are some of the most popular types of maraschino cherries:

Sweet Red Maraschino Cherries in Sticky Syrup

Royal Ann Cherries

Royal Ann cherries, also known as Napoleon cherries, are one of the most commonly used cherries in maraschino cherry production. These cherries have a yellowish-white flesh and a red blush on the skin. They have a sweet, mild flavor and are slightly crunchy.

Bing Cherries

Bing cherries are another popular type of cherry used in maraschino cherry production. These cherries have a deep red color and a sweet, juicy flavor. They are larger than Royal Ann cherries and have a softer texture.

Rainier Cherries

Rainier cherries are a hybrid variety of cherries that are a cross between Bing and Van cherries. These cherries have a yellowish-white flesh and a pink to red blush on the skin. They are sweeter than Bing cherries and have a more delicate flavor.

Amarena Cherries

Amarena cherries are a type of sour cherry that is commonly used in Italian cuisine. These cherries have a dark red color and a tart, slightly bitter flavor. They are often used in desserts and cocktails.

Luxardo Cherries

Luxardo cherries are a premium brand of maraschino cherries that are made in Italy. These cherries are made from a variety of sour cherries called Marasca cherries and are soaked in a syrup made from their own juice. They have a rich, complex flavor and a firm texture.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Homemade maraschino cherries are made by soaking fresh cherries in a mixture of sugar, water, and maraschino liqueur. They can be made with any type of cherry, but sour cherries are often preferred because they have a more intense flavor. Homemade maraschino cherries have a fresher taste than canned maraschino cherries and can be customized to suit individual tastes.

Canned Maraschino Cherries

Canned maraschino cherries are the most common type of maraschino cherries found in grocery stores. These cherries are made by soaking sweet cherries in a solution of sugar, water, and artificial flavorings and colorings. They have a bright red color and a sweet, candy-like flavor.

Uses of Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino cherries are a popular ingredient in various dishes and beverages. They are known for their bright red color and syrupy sweet taste. Here are some common uses of maraschino cherries:

Glass of Maraschino Liqueur with Maraschino Cherries

Garnish for Cocktails and Desserts

Maraschino cherries are a classic garnish for cocktails, especially in drinks like the Tequila Sunrise, the Queen Mary, and the Shirley Temple. They add a pop of color and sweetness to the drink and can also be used as a stirrer. In addition, maraschino cherries are often used as a topping for desserts, including ice cream, sundaes, cakes, and pastries.

Cocktail Ingredient

Maraschino cherries are also an essential ingredient in many cocktails. They are used to add a sweet and fruity flavor to the drink, as well as a pop of color. Some popular cocktails that use maraschino cherries include the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, and the Singapore Sling.

Recipe Ingredient

Maraschino cherries can also be used as an ingredient in various recipes. They are often used in milkshakes, parfaits, and cakes to add a sweet and fruity flavor. In addition, maraschino cherries can be used as a topping for glazed ham to add a pop of color and sweetness.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Rocco

Rocco is a Florida State University alumnus with years of bartending and hospitality experience. From slinging hundreds of vodka sodas a night in jam-packed college bars to serving carefully crafted cocktails in upscale restaurants, there’s not much he hasn’t done behind a bar. Now, Rocco shares his knowledge and passion for all things alcohol-related here on My Bartender for bibulous readers everywhere to enjoy.

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