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.
- 2 shots gin
- ½ shot Maraschino
- ½ shot lemon juice
- Shake well with ice, fine strain in to a cocktail glass with lemon twist for garnish.
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.
- 1 shot gin
- 1 shot sweet vermouth
- 2 bar spoons Maraschino
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Stir with ice, strain in to a cocktail glass with orange twist for garnish.
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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