I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for those Day-Glow red maraschino cherries that lurk in the murky depths of the classic Manhattan. They’re nostalgic, and always good for a bar bet if you can tie the stems with your tongue. But let’s face it: They don’t really taste much like cherries. Or, for that matter, anything but sugar. And red.
In the interest of having a cherry that tastes like a cherry, consider making your own maraschinos. It really couldn’t be easier, other than the grueling effort of pitting the stubborn little buggers. (This can be greatly expedited by employing eager, young hands and one of these swank tabletop cherry pitters.) Or not: You can leave the pits in some or all; they lend a pleasing, almond-like flavor to the final product. That flavor happens to come from – ahem – cyanide, but it’s in quantities small enough to be merely delicious, not deadly.
As for the cherry itself, keep the bings and rainiers for eating out of hand – you want sour cherries. After all, the original, pre-industrial maraschinos were made with marasca cherries, a sour variety. Pump up the cherry quotient by using the aptly named maraschino, a liqueur made from those same marasca cherries and their pits.
In the end, you’re getting a twofer: piquantly puckery cherries for your tipple, and a double-cherry liqueur to enjoy as a digestif, for a dose of summer any time of year.
Homemade Maraschino Cherries Recipe
1 pint sour cherries, washed and stemmed
1 cup maraschino liqueur
Pit (or not!) the cherries. In a small saucepan, heat the maraschino to a low simmer; do not boil. Remove from heat, and add the cherries. Once cool, transfer to a pint mason jar and store in the refrigerator. They’re ready within a few days, but will stay for months in the fridge.
Side Note: You could use kirsch in lieu of the maraschino, but if so you may want to dissolve ¼ cup sugar before adding the cherries.
For more DIY cherry ideas, check out Punk Domestics.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.