I like cocktails with a built-in snack: a Pimm’s cup with cucumber spears, a gin martini with lots of olives, a Bloody Mary with as much veg as I can fit in the glass (celery and cornichons!). And cherries, too. Sadly, store-bought maraschino cherries are terrible, over-sweetened, rubbery little things. Historically, maraschino cherries means a specific variety of cherry (Maraska, from Croatia and Italy) preserved in Maraschino liqueur (made from Maraksa cherries). Now, what’s sold as Maraschino cherries are dyed red, and soaked in brine and sugar. Which sounds more appealing, really?
I had two drinks in mind when I decided to preserve a pound of cherries from the farmer’s market this week – a Manhattan, and a Last Word. Ok, a Last Word doesn’t require a cherry, and I’ve only seen it served that way on occasion, but it is my favorite classic cocktail with maraschino, and I’m going to serve mine with a cherry.
I prefer rye (instead of bourbon or whiskey) in my Manhattan. While I think the maraschino cherry (with hints of cherry and almond) would go nicely with the well-balanced Last Word, I wanted a rounder, fatter flavor for my Manhattan cherries, so it wouldn’t get overpowered by the rye. I remembered a recipe a friend had shared for brandied cherries, and decided it was worth a try.
So, here’s my cherries two ways. Each half-pound of cherries makes a pint. Make sure to sterilize your jars and simmer your lids, even if they’re going straight to the refrigerator.
I did have the good fortune to borrow a cherry pitter. You could give it a try manually, with a chopstick, but this tool allows you to push the pit straight through while keeping the cherry more or less intact. Though, as you can see, there’s a fair bit of splatter from the process, so you’ll want to keep a sponge handy.
1/2 lb cherries, pitted
1 cup maraschino liqueur
Bring cup of maraschino liqueur to a simmer. Add cherries, turn off heat, and let sit until cool. Scoop cherries into jars, and then pour liquid over the cherries. Seal with lids and bands. Refrigerate.
1/2 lb cherries, pitted
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup water
dash of lemon juice
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil. Add cinnamon and lemon, stir until sugar has completely dissolved. Add cherries, simmer on low for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, remove cinnamon and add brandy. Let cool, scoop cherries into jar, and pour liquid over them. You can top off with more brandy if necessary. Add lids and bands, refrigerate.
1 oz Gin
1 oz Green Chartreuse
1 0z Maraschino Liqueur
1 0z fresh squeezed lime juice
Combine in shaker over ice, shake well, until frosted. Strain into 4 oz glass, serve with maraschino cherry.
2 oz rye
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1 dash aromatic bitters
Combine in tall glass over ice, stir well. Strain into glass, serve with brandied cherry.