My Spring Project: Make DIY Maraschino Cocktail Cherries

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

April is Spring Projects month at The Kitchn, and so five of us are going to share a project, from the large to the small, and track our progress throughout the month.

Mine? Homemade cocktail cherries! Have you ever made these before?

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

The Project: DIY Maraschino Cocktail Cherries

I am so hooked on these Luxardo cherries, which are a delicious way to complete a Manhattan or other drink calling for a maraschino cherry. They’re very sweet in their syrup, and yet crisp, with a sticky texture that far surpasses limp and artificially-dyed lesser cherries.

But Luxardo cherries are expensive, and I liked the thought of trying to make something similar in my own kitchen. And then the good folks at the Cherry Marketing Institute in Michigan sent me five pounds of cherries to play around with, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to indulge my cocktail cherry curiosity.

The Plan

My last foray into preserving cherries was canning cherries in red wine syrup —an experiment that yielded ten pints of delicious boozy cherries that got spooned over ice cream or dunked in cocktails for the following year.

But I want to try something a little different this time. While those cherries were delicious, they did stay soft and almost jammy, like canned cherries. I’m curious about how to keep the crisp-chewy texture of a real cocktail cherry like those in the Luxardo jar.

Week 1: Research & Gather Supplies

There are many recipes and methods for making boozy or syrupy cocktail cherries. We have a couple here on the site, including the easiest way: Just pour liqueur (like Maraschino or brandy) over cherries and let them sit for a couple weeks:

This is very easy! It should yield a soft, boozy, delicious cherry. But I want to do a little more research and see if there are other steps I can add to make them more syrupy and more firm. Here are some resources I found interesting and helpful:

The most interesting ideas included “curing” the cherries in a salt water bath, or fixing their color and texture with natural preservatives. I’m most interested in methods that cure the cherries, steep them in liquor, and also add a syrup component for that final jammy note.

The Supplies

No matter which method I use, though, I knew I’d need a few things: Cherries (check!), some kind of liqueur (I’m using Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur), and some jars (yep).

I won’t use all five pounds of cherries in this particular project, but I plan on making at least a quart or two of cocktail cherries. So although the investment in the DIY route is still substantial, I expect the final cost of the cherries to be about half what I would pay for the Luxardo cherries.

Do you have any advice for me?

Have you ever attempted to make cherries like this? What method did you use? Have you experimented with different ones?