Homemade Maraschino Cherries

As a follow-up to my post on flavored simple syrups, today we’ll be making homemade maraschino cherries. You’ve had maraschino cherries before. Those candy apple red, overly sweet, gummy drops sitting in neon syrup, found at the bottom of Shirley Temples and atop ice cream sundaes. Nostalgic, yes. Also full of corn syrup and artificial flavors. I wanted to make my own. When I told a friend I was attempting homemade maraschino cherries, she replied, shocked: “You can do that?!” Yes, you can do that. I know, it’s hard to imagine a homemade version compared to what we’ve come to know as maraschino cherries. I warn you, they taste nothing of the sundae toppers of your childhood. Homemade maraschino cherries are boozy. Grown-up. I like them.

Essentially all it takes to make maraschino cherries is soaking cherries in maraschino liqueur. Ideally the cherries will be the namesake Marasca ones, but if not then sour cherries are the next best thing. I had neither and so made do with regular cherries. If you’ve never had maraschino liqueur (I’m sure you’ve at least seen the recognizable Luxardo brand bottles with their woven covering like old Italian wine bottles), I can guarantee it’s not what your expecting. You’re probably thinking it’s a sweet, cloying, dessert-type liqueur, right? Wrong. It’s astringent, alcoholic, mouth-puckering. Not something you’d drink on it’s own, but we have it on hand as it’s a main ingredient on one of our favorite cocktails: the Aviation. But that’s another recipe for another day.

One method of making maraschino cherries is just to combine the cherries and booze in a jar and refrigerate for two weeks. I was impatient. I was having people over. I wanted cherries and wanted them now, so I used a hot method to speed things up. While many recipes don’t call for sugar (like this NY Times one that I used as a base), I added just a bit and I would even consider adding more. I wanted to keep it as pure as possible but there are some interesting variations out there. Cupcake Project, for example, adds lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg.

In Dale DeGroff’s The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks, he suggests putting the cherries in a jar, covering them with sugar, and letting them stand at room temp for a day. Then you add Maraschino liqueur to cover, shake, and refrigerate. I suspect this will produce a sweeter product and I’m curious. Next time I will try this method.

And for those who plan on feeding these to children, I suggest following a non-alcoholic version, like this one from NPR. They use grape juice instead of liqueur.

There you have it! DIY maraschino cherries. They are the perfect accoutrement to a drink, whether you’re going for a grown-up Shirley Temple (my all time favorite drink as a kid) or a classy Rob Roy cocktail. Just don’t let the kids get a hold of them!

Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Adapted from The New York Times
Yield: 32 Maraschino Cherries

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
¼ cup sugar
32 cherries (about 1½ cups); preferably pitted, or just warn guests they have pits

METHOD:
Combine the Maraschino liqueur and sugar in a small pot over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves fully, about 5 minutes. Add the cherries, stir to coat, and remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature then transfer to a glass jar. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator.

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21 Comments

  1. I think I may have been the one to wildly exclaim “you cam do that?” haha they were wonderful!! A definite grown up version of the sundae topper :)

    • Katherine

      Haha I think so. But it’s so true, it’s not something you would think to make! Thanks!

  2. Hi Katherine! I didn’t know those cherries on top of sundaes are called maraschino cherries. Definitely very artificial. I want to try this homemade version. They must be better! I didn’t even know how to make those cherries. Interesting!

    • Katherine

      These are definitely better! As mentioned they are way boozier, just to warn you! If I wanted to make an alcohol-free version to serve to kids I would try the NPR recipe (link in the post), which uses grape juice instead.

  3. Ohhhh Maraschino is one of my favorite liqueurs ever. My mom always used to have a bottle of it in the cupboard to add to sweets! I haven’t seen it around here yet, but I will look for it as I would love to try these cherries! They look delicious!

    • Katherine

      Love it! We had to bring it back from the US because I definitely haven’t seen it here… back home with the revival of interest in cocktails, especially classics, liqueurs like this have become easier to find again. Thanks Manu!

  4. My mom does these and they are sooo good…. but can make you very drunk!!!!

    • Katherine

      Hahaha so true! You have to be careful with these. Definitely the grown-up edition!

  5. Maraschino cherries are amazing, but never though to make them myself. These sound wonderful and thank you for the inspiration :)
    Great site you have here :)

  6. I love this recipe for Maraschino cherries! It is most defiantly much better than store bought! I loveee your photos!!!!

  7. I was wondering how long these would keep in the fridge? Is it ones of those indefinite kind of things, a “you’ll eat them long before they go bad kind of foods?”

    • Katherine

      Good question! I can’t say for sure how long they will last, but as they are in alcohol I think quite a while. I’ll keep an eye on mine and see how long they’re good for (it’s been weeks and they’re only getting better with age..)

  8. Excellent!! I immediately ran out to get a few bags of cherries and the liqueur! I can’t wait for these! I make it a rule only to drink a cocktail I can add a few cherries to! ;-)
    I am interested to see how extra flavorings like a few mints leaves, a cinnamon stick or a piece of vanilla bean would enhance these.
    Thanks!!

    • So sorry for the late response!! Thanks for stopping by :-) Cherries make any drink better! Adding flavorings is a great idea! I’d love to hear if you tried that and how it turned out!

  9. Do theses freeze as well as the store bought ones! Cause that is the way I like to eat them…FROZEN!!!

  10. Your photos are beautiful! I made something similar recently but with the addition of bourbon (bourbon makes everything a little better, in my book). The idea is still the same though…

    http://www.testkitchenandbar.com/2011/10/28/bourbon-spiked-cocktail-cherries/

  11. Am a bit late to this post, but found it while writing my last post ‘Maraschino: A Tale of Two Cherries’. I’ve just made your recipe and it tastes delicious. Will make some more for Christmas presents.

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