Tag Archives: maraschino cherry


Kevin has developed a strong interest in Manhattan cocktails. He has read many recipes and tried many. He has looked into the qualities of various bourbons and rye whiskeys. The one thing he has settled on is the maraschino cherry that is an obligate part of any authentic Manhattan. He quickly dismissed the fluorescent red cherries that were available in my refrigerator and adopted the burgundy-colored cherries that are favored in most of the restaurants and bars in town. I will admit that they are delicious. They are also expensive. A small jar at the local Whole Foods competitor is $24. The cheaper fluorescent variety is not available at that store; at a more traditional grocery store a much larger bottle of the old standby is around $6.

The story of the two maraschino cherries is very interesting. Going back to the eighteenth century, Croatia on the Dalmatian Coast preserved its small, sour marasca cherries in alcohol for later consumption. Eventually that led to the development of a liqueur called maraschino which enjoyed wild popularity around the world. In the United States, Prohibition was established so that both the liqueur and the cherries preserved in the liqueur were banned. Meanwhile, an enthusiastic chemist in Ohio set out to develop a method to preserve cherries. No alcohol was involved, but a lengthy chemical process that involved bleaching of the cherries, multiple preservatives, and FD&C red dyes (now FD&C  red dye 40) produced the familiar bright red cherry that as a child I loved on top of banana splits and in punch bowls. (I made myself sick as a ten-year-old, fishing out the maraschino cherries from the punch at my uncle’s wedding)

Until recently, we had no choice but the bright red synthetic maraschino cherry, but the real thing has made a comeback. The limitation in the resurgence is, of course, the cost. Being the tightwad that I am, I was unwilling to spend $24 for a little jar of real  maraschino cherries. I decided that I would make my own rather than shelling out the money to Luxardo, which has become the (almost) monopoly of maraschino cherries and maraschino liqueur. So far my investment has included $30 for a bottle of Maraska maraschino liqueur from Zadar, Croatia (the original site of the whole maraschino industry), $8 for a pound and a half of Bing cherries (marascas are not readily available unless you visit Croatia), several dollars for sugar, cinnamon sticks, spices, etc., and my free labor. It is clear that I have made a strong statement about the economies of DIY over the high prices of the authentic stuff.

The good news is that making your own maraschino cherries is easy. The bad news is that they don’t taste the same as the real thing. The really good news is that they still taste mighty good, and you have well over a half bottle of liqueur left to enjoy on its own. You definitely need a cherry pitter, but a small one works just fine. The only thing else that is required is a little patience.


Maraschino Cherries


  • 2 pounds fresh Bing cherries, rinsed, stems removed, and pitted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 large strip lemon peel without white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup maraschino liqueur


  1. Pit the cherries and set aside.
  2. In a pan large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Add the cinnamon, lemon peel, and vanilla.
  3. Add the cherries to the boiling mixture and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the liqueur. Turn off the heat, and allow to cool.
  4. When the cherries are completely cool, transfer to clean jar(s) (You will have enough cherries for about 1 pint) and cover with the cooking liquid.
  5. When the jars are completely cooled, move them to the refrigerator and let them continue to macerate for at least two days.
  6. Well covered and refrigerated, the cherries should last for at least a month’s worth of Manhattans (or Old Fashioneds).


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Denver’s original Elitch Gardens was one of those classic Victorian amusement parks, built on an old farm in the outskirts of the city. The parks were often built at the end of a trolley line and served as a wonderful Sunday getaway for city dwellers. During my high school years, I worked there in the summers.

Elitch started out as a botanical garden and zoo with picnic pavilions, but before long the zoo disappeared and the park added a miniature train, a carousel, restaurants, a wooden roller coaster and a baseball field where semi-pro teams played. There were two special attractions. The theater was claimed by Elitch to be the oldest and longest continuously operating summer stock theater in America. The Trocadero Ballroom was a huge art deco venue with open arcades to catch the breezes, a large bandstand, and tables all around for refreshments.

The theater was a relic of the Victorian Age, made with clapboard painted pea green, edged with white boards and topped with a cupola. There was a passageway to the entrance that was lined with photos of all of the luminaries who had played there, including Sarah Bernhardt, John Barrymore, Gloria Swanson, Myrna Loy, and many others, famous and not so. All of the pictures were inscribed to the owner of Elitch along with the kind of sappy notes that are always attached to that kind of image lined up  on the walls of restaurants and commercial establishments..

The Trocadero seemed elegant with recessed lights and hanging baskets of flowers in the arcades. I am sure that it was a potential fire trap like so many of the other ballrooms across the country. In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s it was the place to go for young people looking for a relaxed evening. All of the famous bands came through for a one- or two-week stand. There was Benny Goodman, Les Brown and the Band of Renown, and the Dorsey Brothers, Tommy and Jimmy. But by far, the most popular band was Lawrence Welk. He could really pack in the crowds.

For a time I worked at the Hamburger Stand, exactly what it sounds like, in the middle of the park and next to the carousel. The management was very proud of the fact that the soda fountain was the original from 1890, and so was the cooktop. The workers were not as happy with the ancient cooking gear as the owners. I was a busboy who then got promoted to working the order window and finally put behind the grill as the short-order cook. It was an interesting job and gave me an interesting perspective on customers and serving the public.

At the Trocadero, I worked as a busboy except when I ran the Lemonade Stand at the theater.  The Lemonade Stand was a little Victorian pagoda where we sold orange juice and lemonade made from very large cans of frozen concentrate that we thawed and diluted. Limeade was freshly made, and it was very popular.  Each day in preparation for the theater crowd, I would line up squadrons of paper cups in hotel pans, cut limes in half  and squeeze one lime into each paper cup. I wore out at least one metal squeezer, but my wrists got very strong. Each cup got a maraschino cherry and two squirts of simple syrup from the antique soda fountain. Then the prepared cups were put in the walk-in cooler until I hauled them to the lemonade stand to await the theater crowds and for final assembly.

Metal lime squeezer

Metal lime squeezer

When theater intermission came, the audience would rush out, and I would make them limeades as quickly as I could by adding ice and seltzer to the prepared paper cups. My efforts were never fast enough for the impatient crowds who worried that they might miss the curtain. There was a Wednesday matinée, and the crowd changed. The audience was almost all women who had enjoyed a fancy luncheon before the show. They were anxious to get their limeades at intermission. The ladies all wore gloves and hats.  I often wondered how you can see the play when you are sitting behind a lady with a hat?  One of the great unsolved mysteries of my lifetime.

When I was reading about the history of Elitch, and especially the theater, I learned that Robert Redford was listed as a cast member in 1955. That was the heyday of my lemonade stand days. I imagine that Robert Redford was busy inside learning and practicing how to be rich and famous. I was outside, making fresh limeade for ladies with gloves. Redford and I never met.


Simple Syrup


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water


  • Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Do not worry if there is undissolved sugar.
  • Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. .
  • Remove from the heat. Cool. Transfer to a clean glass jar with a tight lid. Refrigerate any unused syrup.

    Persian limes - or just "limes"

    Persian limes – or just “limes”

Elitch Gardens Limeade


  • 1 large Persian lime (Key limes won’t work)
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 ounce (equivalent to 2 squirts from the soda fountain dispenser) simple syrup
  • ice
  • club soda


  • Soften the lime by rolling it with the palm of your hand on a hard surface. Cut it in half. With a lime squeezer, squeeze the juice into a 12-ounce glass, and add the rinds to the juice.
  • Add the maraschino cherry and the simple syrup.
  • Pack the glass with crushed ice or ice cubes
  • Fill the glass with club soda. Stir to mix, and serve. Makes one drink.

    My version of Elitch Garden limeade

    My version of Elitch Garden limeade






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