What are Luxardo cherries? Here’s a quick look at this popular cocktail garnish and when it’s absolutely necessary for your drink.
Got a cocktail recipe that calls for Luxardo cherries? Wondering whether they’re worth seeking out, or paying the extra cash? Turns out, these fancy cherries are something altogether different from the standard Maraschino. Take one bite and you’ll be amazed. The intensity in the flavor makes them worth every penny. And there are some cocktails like the Manhattan that require nothing but the best: a Luxardo cherry on top. Here’s more about them and the top cocktails where they’re an absolute must.
What are Luxardo cherries?
Luxardo cherries are the original cocktail cherry, invented back in 1905. They’re small and so dark red they almost look black. Preserved in cherry syrup, their flavor is so intense and complex, you’ll give up on Maraschinos entirely. Luxardo cherries have a pop of flavor: they’re rich, sweet tart, and fruity, with a nutty amaretto-like finish.
The Luxardo distillery was founded in Croatia in 1821 and was famous for making Maraschino, a cherry liqueur made from Marasca cherries that’s used in several classic cocktails. In the 1880’s, the distillery started selling preserved cherries candied in a syrup made of Marasca cherry. These “Luxardo cherries” caught on and were used as a garnish in many classic cocktails of the day. Today these special cherries are manufactured in Italy.
What about Maraschino cherries, the bright red kind you’ll see in a Shirley Temple? Well, that type of cherries came later: they’re an American knockoff of the original that came about in the 1920’s. (Figures.)
When to use Luxardo vs Maraschino cherries?
Here’s the most important question: when should you use Luxardo cherries, since they’re harder to find and more expensive than the more standard Maraschino? Well, they taste that good. The flavor difference is like…eating a rich, dark chocolate homemade brownie vs chocolate chip cookies from a vending machine. Here’s when you should use Luxardo cherries in a cocktail:
- When you want the absolute best, sophisticated flavor. The complex sweetness of the flavor is loads more interesting than cloyingly sweet maraschino cherries.
- When you’ve got a simple drink, it’s great the chance to use a Luxardo. Think Old Fashioned.
- When you’re drinking a classic cocktail customarily uses one: think the Manhattan, Last Word, and El Presidente. See below for our top 10 cocktails with this special cherry!
Where to find Luxardo cherries?
Luxardo cherries were hard to find in the US until 2004, when bartender Audrey Saunders imported them for her famous New York City bar, the Pegu Club (source). Luckily, they’re easy to find today! Check at your local liquor store, or it’s easy to get them online.
Top 10 cocktails with Luxardo cherries
What are the best cocktails with Luxardo cherries? Don’t even think about making a Manhattan with a Maraschino cherry. Here are the top drinks that use it as a garnish:
This sophisticated whiskey drink was invented in the 1870's and has stood the test of time. With only three ingredients, there’s so much going on in one sip! Always garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
Also try: Bourbon Manhattan, Brandy Manhattan or Black Manhattan
This pale green gin sour is a classic cocktail from the early 1900's that was all but lost to history. But with the revival of cocktail culture, this one’s come back strong! It’s equal parts sharp, sweet, and sour. And it's not a Last Word without the classic Luxardo cherry.
What if you’re a Scotch lover and a Manhattan lover? Make the Rob Roy! The Rob Roy drink is a Manhattan made with Scotch whisky instead of bourbon or rye. Top it off with a Luxardo cherry or two.
Here’s a 1920’s cocktail that’s all about charm: the Mary Pickford cocktail! Take one sip and it’s intriguing: pleasantly sweet and sour from the pineapple juice with a slightly funky finish from the Maraschino. There’s more to this pretty pink drink than you’d expect!
Here’s a 1920’s slow sipper that’s begging to be part of your cocktail repertoire: the El Presidente! This Cuban classic never soared quite as high as the daiquiri or the mojito, but it’s something special in its own right.
This unique classic cocktail comes from New Orleans: the name means “French Quarter” in French. It’s strong and alcohol forward, made with rye whiskey, Cognac and bitters. Top it off with a Luxardo cherry for a sophisticated finish.
Here's a 1900's sour cocktail that's been revived: the Aviation! This purple drink tastes as great as it looks: it’s sweet tart, with a hint of cherry and a floral nuance that come from maraschino liqueur and crème de violette.
The La Louisiane is a cocktail that hails from New Orleans, made with rye whiskey, absinthe, vermouth and Benedictine. This unique mixed drink is a classic cocktail from the 1800’s that most people have never heard of!
Love a Manhattan? Then you absolutely must try this unique spin: the Brooklyn cocktail! The Brooklyn is similarly spirit forward, with a few special twists to add nuance. Maraschino liqueur and dry vermouth add intrigue and round out the flavor in this sophisticated drink...and of course, the classic Luxardo garnish!
Looking for a unique classic cocktail to impress? Try the Bijou! This drink was invented in the 1890's and was named for the colors of glittering jewels of the three liquors that make it up. Top it off with a Luxardo cherry.
Top Cocktails with Luxardo Cherries!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 drink 1x
Here are the secrets to the best Manhattan! This easy classic cocktail is made with just three ingredients and always, always topped with a Luxardo cherry. For 9 more cocktails with Luxardo cherries, see above.
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) rye whiskey or bourbon (or brandy for a Brandy Manhattan)
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sweet red vermouth
- 3 dashes Angostura or orange bitters
- Garnish: Luxardo cherry or other cocktail cherry
- Combine the whiskey, vermouth and bitters in a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds.
- Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and serve.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: Cocktails
- Diet: Vegan
Keywords: Luxardo cherries
More cocktail guides
Need more guides to mixing up cocktails? Here’s what you need to know:
- Absinthe Guide This formerly banned liquor is now in good graces.
- Aperol Guide and Campari Guide All you need to know about these Italian liqueurs.
- Baileys Guide All the ins and outs of Irish Cream.
- Chartreuse Guide This pale green liqueur is worth adding to your collection…here’s why.
- Cointreau Guide, Blue Curacao Guide, or Orange Liqueur Guide Citrus liqueurs…broken down.
- Galliano Guide Is this bright yellow liqueur worth buying?
- Grenadine Guide It’s mistaken as cherry, but this bright syrup has a secret.
- Fernet Branca Guide Here’s why people love this Italian bitter.
- Kahlua Guide Learn about this popular Mexican coffee liqueur