A friend of mine once threw some old maraschino cherries in his compost. A year later, they were still there, as round and brilliantly-hued as the day he first opened the bottle.
I’m not a huge fan of maraschino cherries. Food doesn’t come in that color! And yet, I like to make old-school cocktails, and some of them call for one of these cherries as a garnish. A Manhattan just doesn’t look right without one. I’ve been buying the Silver Palate brand, which at least don’t have any artificial coloring, but they don’t taste much better than the standard grocery store variety.
The kind you get at the grocery store are not actually the original maraschino cherries, though. The term used to refer to a product made by the Luxardo Corporation: marasca cherries (a small cherry native to the Adriatic coast of Italy and Croatia) bottled in a liqueur made from the same (Luxardo’s maraschino liqueur, which for a long time wasn’t readily available in the US, but now is, thanks to the trendiness of fancy cocktails). When Prohibition came along, these became illegal, and a non-alcoholic substitute was invented. And is, sadly, with us to this day.
So, the other day I was at the bar at Clio Restaurant in Boston, and what did I see on the counter but a jar of Luxardo brand maraschino cherries! It wasn’t very busy, so I asked the bartender about them, and he gave me one to try. Was it ever tasty! He said that you can buy them at Boston Shaker (a bartending supply store) in Davis Square. I haven’t yet put this to the test, but I hope he’s right! I’m looking to forward to garnishing Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and Aviations with a cherry that not only looks pretty, but tastes good, too.
(On this latest visit, I was only at Clio with a friend for a drink, but I have eaten there before, and I think it’s one of Boston’s best restaurants. We did end up on a whim getting the Miso Dark Chocolate Cremeux, which my friend ordered without either of us looking at the menu, and I would never have ordered it on my own because it comes with banana ice-cream, and I hate banana more than any other flavor on the planet, but we scraped the ice-cream off to the side, and the chocolate part was just amazing! It was like a rectangle of this luscious, dark chocolate pate, with a burnt caramel sauce on the side.)