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 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.
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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