Are Luxardo Cherries Worth it?
The Luxardo Maraschino cherry is the undisputed king of the cocktail cherries. Once you’ve tasted the dark candied cherries, you’ll understand why they’re preferred by chefs and bartenders worldwide. But at nearly $20 USD per 400g jar, are Luxardo cherries worth it? Yes, I think they are.
A $20 jar of Luxardo cherries contains about 50 cherries, so they cost 40 cents each. Store-brand Maraschino cherries cost 6 cents each, so Luxardo cherries are over five times more expensive! However, these delicious cherries are worth the price to enhance the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and other cocktails.
Your cocktail is only as good as the worst ingredient. Consider the Manhattan cocktail: After spending money on good whiskey and quality vermouth, why cheapen the drink with a poor quality garnish? Save the artificially dyed red cherries for ice cream sundaes and compliment your crafted cocktail with a luxurious Luxardo cherry.
Why are Luxardo cherries are better than others?
The typical bright-red Maraschino cherries that adorn ice cream sundaes are made from a variety of different cherry fruits, bleached and preserved with a brine solution of sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride, and then soaked in Red Dye #40 food coloring and sugar syrup to enhance their color and flavor. Producing these cherries uses a lot of processing and additives.
In contrast, Luxardo Maraschino cherries are made from marasca cherries in Italy, using the original 1905 recipe. They are soaked in marasca syrup using no thickening agents or preservatives, and the dark red color is all natural. According to Luxardo, “their unique taste comes from the marasca cherry syrup which is made starting from the same juice used to prepare the infusion for the Cherry Liqueur ‘Sangue Morlacco’.”
Because of this process, Luxardo cherries are gluten free, GMO free, Kosher certified, and vegan friendly. I’m not a vegan, but I definitely prefer to put natural products in my body instead of highly-processed ones full of dyes and preservatives.
What are cheaper alternatives?
Maraschino cherries are the most hotly debated garnish in the wide world of cocktails. The cocktail cherry is unmatched, even by the Martini olive, in its ability to stir the passions of champions and disparagers alike. The red candied cherries popularized in the United States attract most of the negativity.
The cheapest alternative to Luxardo cherries is a store-brand jar of Maraschino cherries. These cost less than $2 per jar at Walmart. They are small, sweet, and rubbery. Are they better than nothing? You be the judge.
Moving up, there are a variety of premium red Maraschino cherries at different price points. Filthy Foods promises “great flavor and firm texture” in their offering. The Red Maraschino Cherries advertise that each cherry contains less than 1% of flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. Be mindful of the price, though. When I checked, these cherries came out to 55 cents each! For me, that makes them a premium option for Tiki drinks and rum cocktails, but not an alternative to Luxardo cherries for the Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
Filthy Foods also offers Black Amarena Cherries in direct competition to Luxardo cherries. Also imported from Italy, and are “Slow cooked in copper pots delivering a rich complex flavor with a sweet front and tart finish.” They are priced slightly cheaper than the Luxardo brand, saving you about 7 cents per cherry. I like these cherries and would recommend them for the budget-conscious mixologist, but thought the Luxardo had a better texture in a side-by-side comparison.
How long do Luxardo Cherries keep?
If you’re thinking about buying 50 cherries at a time for cocktails, you are naturally wondering how long they will last. You may love Manhattans, but how long will it take you to drink 50 of them?
Fortunately, Luxardo Maraschino cherries last up to 3 years after opening. Don’t refrigerate them, because it could cause the sugar to crystalize. Just keep them in a cool, dry place, like it says on the jar.
Don’t forget the syrup!
Luxardo cherries come in a rich, dark marasca syrup. This syrup is a delicious mixing agent to add a cherry flavor to your cocktails. You can use it as an addition or substitution for other sugar syrups.
Each jar is 50% cherries and 50% syrup. Get creative and experiment!
Cocktails Garnished with Luxardo Cherries
There are countless cocktails garnished with cocktail cherries, from sours to tiki drinks. Two of the most popular are the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned, but you can also create your own signature cocktails!
The Old Fashioned is the patriarch of cocktails, and still hugely popular today. A simple mixture of whiskey, sugar, and bitters, the Old Fashioned has stood the test of time because of its perfection.
The traditional garnish is a slice of orange peel, but many Old Fashioned cocktails are served and enjoyed with a cocktail cherry in addition to the orange. You can even get creative and wrap the orange peel around the cocktail cherry and spear them with a cocktail pick for an elevated presentation.
If you or your guests like the Old Fashioned, it’s worth keeping some Luxardo cherries on hand for creating those finishing touches that really take the cocktail up a notch.
The Manhattan is a classic cocktail using whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters – and garnished with a Luxardo cherry.
If you like Manhattans, there should be no debate. You need Luxardo cherries in your bar cabinet. An elegant cocktail needs an elegant garnish, and you’ll be looking forward to eating the cherry the entire time you’re drinking the cocktail.
I created the Infection cocktail for Halloween. It’s a sour melon cocktail with a red wine float that has a creepy green glow and layered colors. It was a huge hit with my guests and great way to show off your mixology skills – a visually stunning drink that also tastes great!
The Luxardo cherry at the bottom is one of the central features of this cocktail – it’s the pathogen that’s causing the infection.
While I created the Infection for Halloween, I find myself making them year round. This cocktail shows off some of the fun things you can do with Luxardo cherries.
Luxardo cherries go surprisingly well with a Whiskey Sour! There’s something about the tartness of the lemon and the warmth of the whiskey that make the little cherries a perfect compliment to the classic cocktail.
The Whiskey Sour is a great example of a cocktail where Luxardo cherries are not required, but they are definitely a welcome addition that will delight you and your guests.
A cocktail is only as good as the worst ingredient, and that includes the garnish. I would rather serve a Manhattan “naked” without a garnish than use a store-brand Maraschino cherry.
First and foremost, Luxardo cherries are delicious. When I consider the number of cherries in a jar, how they’re made, how long they keep, and the possibilities for using the syrup, my decision is easy.
For me, Luxardo cherries are worth it.