Learn to make an easy and more affordable homemade version of classic Luxardo maraschino cherries recipe for all your favorite drinks and cocktails.
I am a craft cocktail novice and have enjoyed mixing up drinks and experimenting with different spirits for the last few years. You can even see all my fun cocktails named after books with my popular “Bon Appeteach Book Club” cocktail series too!
One of the components to making a good cocktail become great is using the right garnish. For many classic cocktails (and even one’s you just love) using a REAL maraschino cherry is key and making them a part of your home bar is a must. The most popular (and very expensive) brand on the market is by Luxardo.
Luxardo is first known for their popular cherry liqueur and you will need this cherry flavored spirit for this recipe too (just a heads up). Luxardo maraschino liqueur is actually a very popular addition to so many of my favorite drinks in fact.
I use it in classic cocktails like the aviation, the last word, a Hemingway daquiri and it can even be used in this delicious Singapore sling). Therefore, buying it and having it on hand is a no brainer in my opinion. Adding what can now be a homemade cherry on top makes it that much better, don’t you think?
If you love cherry season and enjoy making homemade mixers and more for your home bar, check out the full recipe for making a truly real recreation of a natural maraschino cherry (none of the neon red dye kind of cherries here people). Get the tips, techniques and more below. Let’s dive in!
- Cherry Pitter (I recommend this one for ease)
- Large Pot
- Measuring Cup
- Wooden Spoon or Whisk
- Jars (for storing)
Below are answers to commonly asked questions to help you successfully complete this recipe and walk you through possible notes, tips, and recipe substitutions. Please read through before starting.
What is a real maraschino cherry?
We all have seen those scary red dye cherries that are used in milkshakes, placed on a a sundae, or dropped into a tropical cocktail. Those are fun garnishes, but they are not the real deal. If you have never had a truly real maraschino cherry either, you are missing out (they are spectacular).
A real maraschino is actually made from marasca cherries and the liqueur made by Luxardo is using marasca cherry juice to make a sweetened alcoholic based syrup for cocktails. Finding fresh cherries in this variety here in a U.S grocery store may be complicated but there are some alternatives.
What type of cherries work best for making homemade maraschino cherries?
If you cannot find a marasca cherry, then look for any sweeter cherry you can find that’s in season. A comparable cherry to a marasca is the Queen Anne variety and I also really enjoy the Bing cherry variety too. I would avoid a sour cherry for this recipe and use fresh, in season cherries when possible.
Here is what you need and a few suggestions for substitutions-
- Fresh Cherries- Use sweet cherries that are in season when applicable. Remove the stems and pits before cooking.
- Water- You need this to make the base of the syrup that the cherries will rest in and get flavored by.
- Granulated White Sugar- The base of the simple syrup for the homemade cherries. You can sub with any other sweetener you prefer. If you’re looking to lower the sugar amount you can check out my recipe for Keto Simple Syrup that uses allulose sweetener too.
- Luxardo Liqueur- For best results, use this brand of cherry liqueur. You could sub for other brands but the flavor profile may be different.
- Lemon Peel- Adds fragrance and oils to the mixture
- Whole Cinnamon Stick
- Star of Annise
- Fresh Grated Nutmeg
- Vanilla Extract
Preparation and cooking instructions:
The hardest part of making this recipe is pitting your cherries. It’s a bit time consuming and can be messy (or stain your clothing) but it’s worth it in my opinion. I have a cherry pitter I bought off Amazon that pits five cherries at a time and sped up the process very quickly.
After the cherries are prepped, simply start making your syrup base. In a larger pot over medium high heat, add your water and then your sugar. Whisk it together so the sugar fully dissolves. Add in the lemon peel, cinnamon stick, anise, and the nutmeg and cook for 5 minutes.
At this point I reduce the syrup to a simmer and add the cherries to the pot to cook slightly for 2-3 minutes. You want the cherries to be softer, but to be slightly more tender. They should take on a deeper red cherry color during the process.
Remove them from the heat and mix in the Luxardo liqueur and the vanilla. I suggest cooling the mixture quickly with a water bath as well to stall the cooking process. I filled my sink with ice water and place the pot in and stirred the mixture.
Pour your cooled cherries and syrup into jars and store in your fridge. The alcohol will add some preservation to the cherries, but if you want them shelf stable you will need to can them properly. They make a great addition to so many wonder drinks or even share as a gift for friends and family!
- 2 lb. Sweet Cherries (Bing, Queen Anne, any in season fresh cherry)
- 1.5 cups Sugar (see notes below for subs)
- 1.5 cups Water
- 1 Lemon Peel
- 1 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 Star of Anise
- 1 tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg
- 1.5 cups Luxardo Liqueur
- 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- Start by removing the pits and stems from your cherries. Using a cherry pitter is the most efficient way to do it!
- Next, in a large pot add the water and bring to a soft boil. Add in the sugar and whisk to dissolve.
- Let it boil and add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, star of anise, and fresh grated nutmeg to the mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low.
- Add in the cherries and allow it to simmer on lower heat for 2-3 minutes. They should just be slightly tender, but still hold up and have some bite to them.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the Luxardo liqueur and the vanilla extract.
- Immediately remove the pot from the burner and place it carefully in an ice bath to cool. I use one side of the sink filled with cold water and ice and place the pot right in. Stir for a few minutes to also speed up the process.
- Once fully cooled to room temperature, divide into jars and place in the fridge. These are best kept cold unless you properly can them and follow safety procedures for doing so.
Want to reduce the sugar content? Swap out classic white sugar for allulose. Follow all the details in my keto simple syrup post to help instead.