A tale of two Maraschinos

January 16th, 2008

At the beginning of December Gabriel over at cocktailnerd compared two Maraschinos – namely Luxardo and Stock – and wrote about his preference for Stock Maraschino when making an Aviation cocktail. Until then everything I had read sung the praises of Maraschino Luxardo over any other brand, and I had very much enjoyed the Aviations Gabriel found so displeasing, so I was keen to compare some other brands myself and see if I was missing out.

Surprisingly I had trouble tracking down any other Maraschinos here in the UK. Luxardo is fairly easy to get hold of, for an unusual liqueur anyway, but few places stock any other brand. Though I was originally searching for Stock I eventually found a bottle of Maraska, and given the trouble I had finding that promptly bought the bottle and gave up the hunt. I decided to try each neat at room temperature and in an Aviation both in classic and more modern varieties.

Maraschino Luxardo


Maraschino was first made by apothecaries of the Zadar Dominican monastery (those monks again!), originally under the name Rosolj, in the 16th century. In the 18th century production on an industrial scale began, and the liqueur quickly gained favour all over Europe – Napoleon Bonaparte was said to have enjoyed a glass after dinner.

In 1821 Girolamo Luxardo set-up his own distillery in Zadar to make Maraschino, and it soon became known as a quality product even gaining special approval from the Emperor of Austria. However, World War II devastated Zadar and most of the historic distilleries, Luxardo included, were destroyed. After the war Luxardo relocated to Northern Italy and built a new distillery in Torreglia where it remains today.

Maraschino Luxardo has an earthy quality, both in smell and taste. It is relatively sweet, with a viscous quality to it and a mild cherry taste. There is a little bit of heat in the finish, with an overall flavour that can only be described as funky – sort of nutty and very complex. It is quite a challenging spirit with a lot going on, but I think that’s what makes it so interesting.

In a classic Aviation the Luxardo works really well. There in an interesting interplay between the lemon, Maraschino and crème de violette, creating a stimulating floral bouquet that still harbours the same funkiness I got from the neat Maraschino. In a modern Aviation the Luxardo tended to dominate the drink a little, and while still a great drink it was notably inferior to the classic.

Two Aviation cocktails


Maraska Maraschino is produced at the old Luxardo distillery in Zadar, which was rebuilt after the war and is still running today. Maraska has a distinct cherry taste and smell, with hints of almond. It is perhaps slightly sweeter than Luxardo, and ultimately less complex with a shorter finish. There is still plenty going on, but it’s not in the league of the Luxardo.

In a classic Aviation the cherry from the Maraska is quite prominent, masking the subtleties of the crème de violette somewhat. It is also sweeter, and compared to Luxardo I found it slightly cloying. In the modern recipe the Maraska fairs better, and avoids overwhelming the other ingredients like the Luxardo nearly does. Though the Maraska is less complex by itself, it allows more of the gin and lemon through resulting in a slightly different flavour profile.

I was really surprised by how different the classic and modern recipes tasted when trying them side-by-side. Previously I had only compared them from memory and considered them largely similar, but closer inspection shows there are definite differences stemming from the way the crème de violette interacts with the Maraschino.

As someone who has always made Aviations with Luxardo I still found myself preferring the cocktails made with it, but the Maraska worked pretty well in the modern recipe – I think I can see where Gabriel was coming from. Now if we can just sort him out with some Crème de Violette, hopefully he can start to enjoy Aviations made with his (I imagine still very full) bottle of Luxardo.

Everyone’s tastes are different of course – how do you like your Aviation, and which brand of Maraschino do you prefer?

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Posted in Maraschino, Reviews

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9 responses to “A tale of two Maraschinos”

  1. Gabriel Gabriel says:

    HAhah, yes, I’ve been working the modern recipe almost exclusively and the Luxardo does definitely overpower the drinks and bring its musty and flavorful dryness too much to the party. So, I’m sure that’s part of my preference for the Stock’s.

    Now, however, I *have* managed to get my hands on a bottle of Creme de Violette (post to come shortly after I’ve mastered all variations of Aviations and Blue Moons possible), and yes, the quite full bottle of Luxardo will be getting another spin, but this time with the classic recipe in mind.

    Good post, Jay, and I’m always glad to see an curious and open mind taken to these subjects. The Maraska sounds closer to the character of the Stock’s.

  2. Marleigh Marleigh says:

    Great post, Jay! Between you and Gabriel we’ll have a complete catalog of tasting notes for obscure liquors before long.

    I am, however, jealous of Gabriel’s Créme de Violette. I finally found a store that carries Rothman & Winter and get there only to find that they sold the last bottle an hour before I got there. Sigh.

  3. Dr. Bamboo Dr. Bamboo says:

    I desperately need to get some Creme de Violette too…I LOVE the modern recipe Aviation without it, so I’d love to give the classic a whirl once I can get my hands on some.

  4. DougP DougP says:

    I also find Luxardo too strongly-flavored for the “modern” variation. My preferred Aviation is:

    1.5 oz gin
    0.5 oz lemon juice
    1/2 tsp Maraschino (Luxardo)
    1/2 tsp Violette (Hermes)

    (note to metric users: 1/2 tsp = 1/12 oz, i.e. 1 tsp = 1/6 oz)

    The Hermes Violette is very powerfully floral, so the small quantity works best for my palate.

    Thanks for the comparison writeup!

  5. the modern serf the modern serf says:

    i made a marlin (from intoxica!) the other night with luxardo and i found it pretty overpowering with the printed recipe, but wonderful with half the maraschino.

  6. Jay Jay says:

    Glad you’ve managed to pick up a bottle of Creme de Violette Gabriel, I can’t wait to read what you make of it…

  7. F.Luxardo F.Luxardo says:

    Thanks for the positive comments on Luxardo Maraschino. – As to its history may I suggest some clarifications:
    1 – The Dominican monks have nothing to do with “Maraschino”: the first recorded manufacturers are in the early 1700′ a Bartolomeo FERRARI, botanist,and a G.B.ROTA, both living and acting in Zara,
    2 – The town of Zara (Dalmatia) was never called “Zadar” until 1947. Hence Girolamo Luxardo founded his firm in 1821 in ZARA.
    3 – The Luxardo distillery in Zara was partially destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. When the Tito communist partisans took over the town at the end of 1944, they killed 3 members of the family to get hold of the firm and confiscated all Luxardo properties without compensation.Some Luxardos happily survived, moved to Torreglia – Padua (Italy) with the original recipes and re-started the entire business from scratch.
    4 – The old Luxardo distillery in Zara (now Zadar) is now closed and owned by a bank who plans a hotel in the 1913 imposing building.

  8. Aviation cocktail « Popup Monsters says:

    [...] qu’il y ait des puristes pour comparer les maraschino et créer le perfect Aviation, nous avons fait avec les moyens du [...]

  9. Gábor Gábor says:

    Dear Mr. Luxardo!

    Don’t you plan to buy the Maraska factory (and company) and start running the business again on the original site of Zara?


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