Quick Sips: Maraschino is a clear liqueur made from sour Marasca cherries, but it does not present a strong cherry flavor at all. Contrary to expectations, the taste is not very sweet. In fact, it skews dry and slightly bitter, with almond and pine notes. Some taste a little bit of mint on the finish. The texture is very viscous.
Applications: Maraschino is common in classic cocktails like the Martinez and the Aviation. It’s also the defining ingredient in the Hemingway Daquiri. In addition, many contemporary bartenders are rediscovering the liqueur for the same reason Papa loved it–the ability to ability to add some flavor without overwhelming sweetness.
Backstory: In 1817, Girolamo Luxardo, a Genovese businessman, and his wife, Maria Canevari, moved to Zara, a port city on the Dalmatian coast of what is now Croatia. Maria would make liqueurs at home including what we now call Luxardo Maraschino. Her creation proved so popular that in 1821 the couple founded the Luxardo Distillery and got into the liqueur game full time.
For a century, the Luxardo family built out the business. In, 1913, Michelangelo Luxardo opened a new distillery, the largest in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, World War II devastated the distillery and the family. Armed with a single cherry sapling, the only surviving heir, Giorgio Luxardo opened a new distillery in the small Veneto city of Torreglia after the war. Giorgio did well and his heirs continue to produce the liqueur to this day. (Although, San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling now owns the majority share of Luxardo.)
Production: Sour fruit and crushed cherry pits are distilled like a regular fruit brandy. (Distillation is a very atypical method for liqueurs.) Then, cane syrup is added before aging and filtration.