What Is Maraschino Liqueur?

A Drier Cherry-Flavored Liqueur Preferred in Classic Cocktails

Maraschino (cherry) liqueur
Getty Images/Remek Trzaska

Maraschino is a cherry-flavored liqueur that is made from Marasca cherries and it has a bitter-dry flavor profile. It is a popular ingredient in the bar and is used in a number of cocktail recipes, particularly classic cocktails. If you love the taste of cherry-flavored drinks but don't want an overwhelming sweetness, adding a bottle of maraschino to your bar is a great idea.

Making Maraschino

Maraschino is not your typical sweet liqueur.

When making it, the pits of the Marasca cherries are included in the fermentation. This process contributes a slightly bitter almond flavor to the clear, dry spirit.

Maraschino was developed in Italy, where it received its name. It was also used as one of the original preservatives for the maraschino cherries we use regularly as cocktail garnishes, though today the cherries themselves are typically sweeter varieties.

The liqueur is pronounced using the Italian mare-uh-SKEE-no. In contrast, the cherries are typically pronounced mare-uh-SHEE-no.

The Taste

Modern production of maraschino liqueur varies greatly by the distillery making it. Some choose to include other varieties of cherries or ingredients in their recipes, so you will notice a difference from one brand to another.

Typically, you can expect maraschino liqueurs to be drier than "cherry" liqueurs, which can be very sweet. The juice from maraschino cherries is also sweeter and it is not a recommended substitute for maraschino liqueur.

Popular Brands

Among the most popular brands available, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur is the best-known. You will also find excellent maraschino offerings from Bols, Briottet Maison Edmond, Giffard Marasquin, Maraska, Schladerer, and Toschi.

Most maraschino liqueurs are 32 percent alcohol by volume (64 proof), though they can vary.

Cocktails

Maraschino can be served straight or on the rocks and it makes a wonderful digestif to enjoy after dinner. It has also been used in many cocktails for over a century. It is the key ingredient in classic cocktails like the iconic aviation cocktail and the Martinez, the so-called "grandfather" of the martini.

Building off the gin, vermouth, and maraschino of the Martinez, you can also explore other interesting cocktails. For instance, if you add an anise liqueur, you will have a tuxedo cocktail. If you pour dry vermouth rather than the Martinez's sweet vermouth, you will have an imperial cocktail.

If gin is not your thing, maraschino pairs very well with any of the other base liquors. It's instrumental in the Manhattan-like Creole cocktail and works wonderfully against the pineapple and brandy of the club cocktail. For a maraschino-flavored rum cocktail, the Hemingway daiquiri is a fantastic choice.

Today's bartenders are also enjoying the distinct flavor of maraschino and employing it in their recipe development. Fans of tequila will find the Danny Ocean to be an interesting drink that pairs it with grapefruit. Rum lovers will find the Lady Liberty to be fascinating as well. This one puts the cherry against the herbal flavors of Chartreuse and absinthe.

Use these recipes as inspiration for creating your own maraschino cocktails. You'll find that it pairs well with a great variety of flavors, including most fruits. Also, it's also a good substitute for any drink that calls for another cherry-flavored ingredient.

Substitutes

If you're looking for a substitute for maraschino, try Cherry Heering. It is a good top-shelf replacement, though it does include some extra spices not found in the average maraschino.

You can also look for anything labeled "cherry liqueur" or crème de cerise, or use a cherry brandy. These will be your sweeter options, especially if the brandy is not a true brandy because sweeteners have been added. If you end up using one of these, you may need to cut a bit of the sweetener from your drink's recipe.

Cherry-flavored vodkas are also available, though these will not have a sweetness like the other options.

With this replacement, consider adding a little extra sweetener to the recipe.