The Luxardo Brand
By Jeannie Weaver
The Rolex of Cocktail Cherries: Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
For a lot of bartenders, myself included, garnishes are always a secondary thought. Although we put a garnish in almost every drink at Revival, I personally subscribe to a separate form of thought. If the drink is good enough it should be able to stand on its own without a garnish. There are a few exceptions to this and they almost exclusively involve Luxardo Cherries. They are the gold standard for cocktail cherries and I’ve gone as far as to say they are the Rolex of cocktail cherries.
Truth be told, I have hated cherries most of my adult-life because cherry flavored items tended to always have this ungodly medicinal flavor. It wasn’t until I had fresh Rainer cherries that I realized that the taste varied vastly from the syrupy stuff of nightmares. My love affair with Luxardo Cherries began specifically with my first old fashioned. The blackish orb that was skewed in a metal cocktail pick was unlike any cherry I had ever seen. It looked more like an olive than a cherry, but once I bit in I was hooked.
As Revival has grown the past year so has the amount of Luxardo converts. I know it sounds silly, but we preach the Gospel when it comes to these specific cherries. Soon people started asking me questions about them that I couldn’t answer? Are they are marschino cherry or something else? Why do they taste different from the fire engine red cherries they’ve seen muddled to death in Old Fashioned’s? Why are they so expensive? The quest for answers was actually a short one, many thanks to Google, but I came away with a deeper appreciation for the brand.
The Luxardo brand started as a beverage company in 1821, in what is now known as Croatia, (previously Zara under the Austrian Empire) by Girolamo Luxardo. The beautiful, Dalmation Coast was home to the sour Marasca cherry. The distillery was born out of a local tradition of turning the cherries into a homemade maraschino liqueur, much like Florida locals do with limoncello.
In 1905, following the success of the liqueur, Luxardo started selling preserved cherries in non-alcoholic cherry syrup. Along with Luxardo, there were other companies that had followed along European tradition and sold cherries in syrup as well. The Americans took note of this and copycat versions arose. During WWII, the Luxardo distillery along with 80% of the town were demolished. The Luxardo family relocated to Torreglia, Italy where the company is based now. With the help of a professor, Alessandro Morettini of the University of Florence, who had become interested in the Crotian cherries and was given trees to take back with him in Italy prior to the war. After the war, the professor was located and the Luxardo’s were able to re-cultivate the Marasca cherry. Through selective breeding over several seasons he was able to create the variety that is officially known as the Luxardo Marasca.