June 2nd, 2007

Maraschino is a liqueur which gains its flavour from Marasca cherries. During production the whole cherry, including the pits, seeds and stems, is used which lends an almost almond like taste to the spirit. It has a fresh, slightly dry, bittersweet flavour which is very different to regular cherry liqueurs, and somewhat hard to describe. Various brands exist, but one of the most famous and highly thought of is Luxardo Maraschino, which is what I am using in the following recipes.

Many classic cocktails from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century use Maraschino, and I have chosen two of the most famous to sample. Both use only small amounts of Maraschino, but despite this it shows through as a key ingredient that really makes the drink what it is.

Aviation cocktail with Luxardo Maraschino and Plymouth Gin bottles in background


The original recipe calls for crème de violette, an unusual and rare liqueur with violet flower flavoring and coloring. It’s this ingredient that gives the Aviation its blue colour and hence its name. I don’t have crème de violette so I’m using a more modern recipe from Gary Regan’s Joy of Mixology, which calls for equal parts Maraschino and lemon, rather than the lemon heavy recipes commonly found in other books.

Wow. The Aviation is a truly beautiful drink. A wonderfully subtle balance of sweet and sour, with the floral notes of the gin and Maraschino working together sublimely. Despite only containing three ingredients, it has a very complex, yet very balanced, flavour. I really am running out of superlatives to describe it. If you’ve never tried one, I urge you to go out and find a bar/shop that stocks Maraschino and order/make yourself an Aviation.

Martinez cocktail with Luxardo Maraschino, Plymouth Gin, Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth and Fee Brothers Orange Bitters bottles in background


Some sources suggest the Martinez is the precursor to the most famous of all cocktails, the Martini. The name certainly suggests that, and the ingredients list reads like a more complicated, sweeter Martini, but as with so much cocktail history, no one really knows for sure. Of the many Martinez recipes around, I’ve chosen a version by Jamie Boudreau, which is less vermouth heavy than the original. I’ve seen recipes that use curacao or sugar syrup in place of Maraschino, but I’d call that a very sweet Martini – for me the Maraschino is what makes a Martinez.

Vermouth, with slight floral undertones from the gin, dominates the initial taste of the Martinez. The Maraschino is definitely there in the background though, and this increases as time passes. The aftertaste is a sweet mixture of vermouth and Maraschino. The Martinez is a curious amalgam of flavours, and leaning toward the sweet side makes it very approachable. My boyfriend, who winces at Manhattans, really enjoyed trying the Martinez. A deserved classic.

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Posted in Gin, Lemon, Maraschino, Orange Bitters, Recipes, Vermouth

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11 responses to “Maraschino”

  1. Gabriel Gabriel says:

    Great post, Jay. In fact, you’ve posted on two drinks I mean to highlight as both of them astounded me. I also prefer the 1/2 oz Marachino recipe for the Aviation and the Martinez was a pleasant surprise as I’m not much on vermouth heavy drinks sometimes, but the Maraschino liqueur brings it together nicely. I haven’t used Plymouth gin yet, but based on what I’ve read it’s something I need to add to my rotation.

    On that note, I’ll recommend ‘The Last Word’ cocktail if you haven’t already tried it. It blends two of my favorite liqueurs; maraschino and chartreuse, and is suprisingly well-balanced given the recipe. I follow Robert Hess’s recipe for it.

    Again, great post; and great blend of information from Regan and Haigh on this one (at least I assume those were your primary sources, if not, turn me onto what else you used).

  2. Jay Jay says:

    Thanks Gabriel. I’ve only ever tried Plymouth Gin (well, except perhaps Gordon’s in the form of a sip of my mum’s G&T when I was younger!), but it works well in everything I’ve tried it in. From what I’ve read it seems very well thought of. Now I’m learning the joys of gin based cocktails I think I’ll have to try some other brands though.

    I’ve read about the Last Note before, and it’s definitely one I’d like to try. The expense and limited availability of Chartreuse has always put me off buying it, but I will have to add it to my shopping list…

  3. Marleigh Marleigh says:

    Lovely! I adore the Aviation (not as much as the Corpse Reviver #2, but it’s still a delicious drink).

    And Plymouth is wonderful. I generally keep it—along with Hendrick’s and Damrak—at all times. It has great versatility and tends to be much less expensive than Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray, with more and less pronounced flavor, respectively.

  4. Jay Jay says:

    Ah the Corpse Reviver #2, another drink I really want to try! Although unlike the Last Word I don’t really have an excuse for not having tried it, as here in the UK we’re lucky enough to have absinthe freely available.

    Tanqueray No. 10 is probably going to be my next Gin purchase, the fruit element intrigues me…

  5. cocktailnerd » Blog Archive » Call to Arms: Tales from a Cocktail Party - A blog of most things cocktail and alcohol related says:

    [...] Almond*: 9.0/10 Fog Cutter: 8.75/10 Martinez: 8.5/10 Pimm’s Cup: 8.25/10 Jack Rose: 8.25/10 Aviation: 8.25/10 Champagne Cocktail: 7.75/10 Romance*: 7.75/10 Corpse Reviver #2: 7.50/10 Gazebo: 7.38/10 [...]

  6. cocktailnerd » Blog Archive » Last night’s dogbite: Corpse Reviver #2 - A blog of most things cocktail and alcohol related says:

    [...] is a drink that, like the Aviation, is a great introduction to how gin can be used to wonderful effect for the ‘But I [...]

  7. cocktailnerd » Blog Archive » Last night’s dogbite: The Aviator - A blog of most things cocktail and alcohol related says:

    [...] yourself the trouble of mixing this labor-intensive drink and just serve up an Aviation; my friend Jay heartily recommends it and, at the end of the long day of appreciating well-balanced drinks, your [...]

  8. Bartender for Life Bartender for Life says:

    Emporer’s Tea aka: Rich B**** Cooler.

    ½ shot Maraschino (more if you like a sweeter cocktail)
    ½ shot lemon juice (half a large fresh lemon or concetrate)
    5 oz Club soda
    a dash of orange flower water

    Garnish with a few scrapings of lime rind over the ice and a sprig of mint leaf. Cherry on top optional. Be careful not to scrape the lime down too far, you don’t want the white part as it is bitter.

  9. Bartender for Life Bartender for Life says:

    or you can crush the mint before adding Maraschino and ice then pour a premix of club soda and fresh lemon juice over that.

  10. Bartender for Life Bartender for Life says:

    Cherry Rock-a-Cola

    ½ shot Maraschino
    6oz your favorite cola.
    Server over ice, garnish with a cherry.

    WARNING: you cannot taste the alcohol in this drink whatsoever and Maraschino is 60 proof. Go easy on these.

  11. Bartender for Life Bartender for Life says:

    Hence the above drink is also refered to as:
    A Cherry Coma :)

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