Yes, you can buy a jar of maraschino cherries, but the standard process of making maraschino cherries today leaves a lot to be desired. They're often filled with artificial colors, sweeteners, and, quite honestly they're a bit of a mess. Why would you ruin a perfectly good cocktail with an inferior garnish? Garnishes are supposed to enhance our drinks, not bring them down. Rather than indulge in these mutant cherries, think about making your own at home. It's incredibly easy and these boozy little cherries are ones you're going to want to nibble on!
This method is similar to the original way that maraschino cherries were made. It uses maraschino liqueur as the preservative and your cherries will be ready in just a couple of weeks. A batch will last quite a long time and you can make as few or as many as you like.
- 1 pound cherries (fresh, pitted)
- 750 mL bottle maraschino liqueur
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Add the cherries and sugar to canning jars with tight sealing lids. The cherries should fill the container but should not be crammed inside.
Note: if you have more cherries than comfortably fit in the jar, use a second jar for the remainder. How many jars you end up needing is going to vary based on the size of the cherries as well as the jars you use.
Pour maraschino liqueur into the jar(s) to cover the cherries completely and shake well to dissolve the sugar. The cherries will float so you will have to eyeball this, though shaking for 30 seconds usually works well enough.
Refrigerate for 1 to 2 weeks, gently shaking each jar twice a day.
After 1 week, test the cherries to see if they have reached your desired taste.
Store your finished maraschinos in the original jars and keep them refrigerated. The liqueur will continue to preserve them, so they should be good for quite a long time.
Many Ways to Make Homemade Maraschinos
Maraschino liqueur is just one of the many spirits you can use to make maraschinos at home—though note that the liqueur is pronounced mare-uh-SKEE-no and the cherries are pronounced mare-uh-SHEE-no. Maraschino liquer a nice option because it naturally enhances the flavor of the fruits. Brandy, vodka, and rum are other popular liquors to use as well.
There are many homemade recipes for maraschino cherries and this is one of the most basic and easiest. Other methods include adding different coloring agents or require traditional canning methods, longer preparation times, excess flavoring ingredients, and other variations on the factors involved. You can certainly employ any of those and create your own custom cherries.
If you want to make an alcohol-free maraschino, you will need to do a little more prep work. Since there's no alcohol to act as a preservative, this recipe requires a traditional canning approach. They're quite tasty and cherries that everyone can enjoy.
Choosing and Pitting Your Cherries
The sour Marasca cherry is the original "maraschino" and remains an excellent choice. Feel free to use any variety of cherry you desire. Bing cherries are a good option among the sweet cherry varieties.
Many cherries come into season in the spring and summer, but keep an eye out in the markets throughout the year. When you do find great cherries at a good price, consider stocking up. A large enough batch of maraschinos may even last you until the next cherry season.
While frozen cherries can make acceptable maraschino cherries, you will find it better to stick with fresh cherries. Even the best looking frozen cherries do not look great in a cocktail glass.
Take the Pain Out of Pitting
If your cherries are not pitted you will want to invest in a cherry pitter. Pitted cherries (stem or no stem) are expected in cocktails. While you can pit cherries with tools that are already in your kitchen, you will find that a good pitter makes this task go much faster.