Maraschino cherries — you know, those brightly colored cherries adorning the top of your sundae or the bottom of your Manhattan — are one of the only food items that are ubiquitous in both bars and ice cream parlors. But what exactly are those things? And, more importantly, how are they made?
There are two varieties of Maraschino cherries. The first, produced and sold by liqueur company Luxardo, are real, whole candied Marasca cherries preserved in syrup per a very old family recipe. They’re quite sweet, and contrary to popular belief they contain no alcohol.
The second, more common variety, actually start off as light cherries, usually of the Rainier variety, with yellow flesh. They’re first preserved in a briny solution of sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride to bleach them completely white (delicious!), then they’re soaked in food coloring, artificial coloring, and artificial flavoring (including a little almond extract). They actually came about in the early twentieth century, when cherries were scarce and bars needed ways to preserve them.
So there you have it! Garnish responsibly.