Spirits & Liqueurs Liqueur

10 Cocktails to Make with Maraschino Liqueur

You’ve made a Last Word. Now what?

Luxardo maraschino liqueur bottle with cocktail illustrations against blue background

Liquor.com / Laura Sant

Complex and slightly bitter, maraschino liqueur is a far cry from some of the syrupy-sweet, neon ice cream toppings you might remember. In fact, the ingredient has featured in some of history’s great drinks, from early Martini variations to the iconic Last Word. Here’s everything to know about the versatile cherry liqueur—and how to use it. 

What Is Maraschino Liqueur? 

Maraschino is a clear liqueur that is made from the juice and crushed pits (and often the leaves and branches) of marasca cherries.This variety of sour Morello cherries most famously grows on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast and in the Veneto region of Italy. 

It is thought that the liqueur was first distilled by monasteries on the Dalmatian coast, in the 16th century when the region was ruled by the Republic of Venice. Venetian merchant Francesco Drioli opened a distillery in 1759 in Zadar (formerly Zara) and is widely credited with driving the liqueur’s international expansion. Imitators of Drioli soon hit the market, most notably Luxardo, which was founded by another Venetian merchant, Girolamo Luxardo, in 1821. Historically, maraschino liqueur was sipped as a digestif like other fruit liqueurs, but later in the 19th century, it started appearing in cocktails like the Martinez.

Most maraschino distilleries were destroyed during World War II, and Luxardo relocated its distillery from Zadar to Torreglia, Italy in 1947. In the ensuing years, maraschino liqueur bottles began collecting dust on back bars, and Drioli closed in 1980. However, the ingredient experienced a resurgence in the early 2000s, as bartenders looked to old cocktail books for inspiration and came across classic cocktails that used the liqueur.

How Is Maraschino Liqueur Made?

Production of maraschino liqueur differs from brand to brand, but generally, marasca cherries and their pits are infused into neutral alcohol before the resulting liquid is distilled, aged, and sweetened. For its liqueur, Luxardo employs the entire cherry plant, including the leaves and branches, which are infused into neutral beet alcohol in larch wood vats for about three years. The solids are removed, then the liquid is distilled in ashwood vats and cut with sugar and water before it’s bottled at 64 proof (32% ABV). The straw sleeve, which has become a trademark of many maraschino liqueurs, was originally intended to protect fragile Murano glass during shipping. 

Common Brands

Although it’s undoubtedly the most famous, Luxardo isn’t the only maraschino liqueur on the market. Croatia-based Maraska opened in the Zadar distillery that once housed Luxardo after World War II, and Italian companies Fratelli and Lazzaroni have been bottling versions since 1865 and 1900, respectively. Today, Dutch company Bols also makes a widely available version, and Colorado-based Leopold Bros.— made with both marasca and Montmorency cherry distillates, coriander, and honey—has emerged as a favorite bottle for those who prefer a slightly drier flavor profile. Maraschino liqueurs typically have an ABV between 24–32%. 

How to Use Maraschino Liqueur

Maraschino liqueur can be sipped neat, on its own, but it’s typically used as a modifier in cocktails. A good choice for slightly tarter drinkers, it’s less sweet than simple syrup or many other fruit liqueurs but still works to balance a cocktail. The liqueur also imparts a depth of flavor and slight almond notes from the cherry pits. 

If you have a bottle of maraschino liqueur on hand, there’s no shortage of ways to put it to use. Start with these 10 essential recipes.

  • Last Word

    Last Word cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    This complex Prohibition-era drink was likely first served at the Detroit Athletic Club around 1915, but it largely faded from history until Seattle bartender Murray Stenson unearthed the recipe from Ted Saucier’s 1951 book Bottoms Up in the early 2000s. The classic calls for equal parts maraschino liqueur, botanical gin, herbaceous Green Chartreuse, and fresh lime juice—easy-to-memorize specs that have inspired countless riffs around the world.

    Get the recipe.

  • Hemingway Daiquiri

    Hemingway Daiquiri cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    In the 1930s, author Ernest Hemingway reportedly asked for a Daiquiri made with half the sugar and double the booze at Havana, Cuba’s El Floridita Bar. That request would have produced an extremely dry drink, but bartenders have since tweaked the combination to suit modern tastes, adding grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur to the combination of white rum and lime juice. Sometimes called the El Floridita or the Daiquiri #4, the drink is slightly tarter than a standard Daiquiri, with more depth of flavor.

    Get the recipe.

  • Martinez

    Overhead-angled view of a Martinez cocktail in a coupe class on white marbled background, with orange twist along the rim

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    Made with gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Angostura bitters, this Martini precursor resembles a gin Manhattan, and that’s no coincidence. The drink was included in the footnotes of a Manhattan recipe when it first appeared in print, in O.H. Byron’s 1884 book The Modern Bartenders’ Guide. While Byron didn’t specify a type of gin, malty genever would likely have been the preferred choice. A Jerry Thomas version of the drink from 1887 called for Old Tom gin, more closely resembling today’s recipe.

    Get the recipe.

  • Improved Whiskey Cocktail

    Improved Whiskey Cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    In the late 1800s, bartenders began “improving” Old Fashioned-style cocktails with the addition of imported European ingredients like maraschino liqueur, absinthe, and curaçao. Like the classic Old Fashioned, this drink combines bourbon or rye whiskey with sugar (in this case simple syrup) and Angostura bitters. Dashes of maraschino liqueur, absinthe, and Peychaud’s bitters round out the drink.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • Turf Club

    Turf Club cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    Many early Martini iterations also called for “improving” ingredients—and one such variation was the Turf Club. Although the first recorded recipe, published in 1884, called for Old Tom gin and sweet vermouth, a Harry Johnson recipe from the turn of the century hewed more closely to the modern-day version, combining equal parts Plymouth gin and dry vermouth with maraschino liqueur, absinthe, and orange bitters. Nowadays, the Turf Club is often made with an even drier London Dry bottling and a higher gin-to-vermouth ratio, but the “improving” ingredients remain.

    Get the recipe.

  • Tuxedo No. 2

    Tuxedo No. 2 cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    Technically a successor to the Tuxedo Cocktail (gin, sherry, orange bitters), the Tuxedo No. 2 shares several ingredients with the Turf Club, which it was featured alongside in Harry Johnson’s originalBartender’s Manual in 1900. Like many Martini variations, both drinks have evolved into drier drinks since their inception, but generally, the Tuxedo No. 2 has a rounder, slightly sweeter flavor profile than its similar-on-paper sibling. Modern variations may call for the softer Plymouth gin and a gently floral blanc vermouth alongside maraschino liqueur, absinthe, and orange bitters.

    Get the recipe.

  • Brooklyn

    Brooklyn cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    This spirit-forward whiskey cocktail, which first appeared in Jacques Straube’s Drinks in 1908, has elements of both the Manhattan and the Martinez, combining rye, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon. A bitter French aperitif, Amer Picon can be difficult to source in the U.S., but Bigallet China-China or Angostura bitters both make good substitutes. The Brooklyn has also inspired plenty of riffs that swap out the Amer Picon for another liqueur, including the Red Hook (Punt e Mes) and the Bensonhurst (Cynar).

    Get the recipe.

  • Aviation

    Aviation cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    This gently floral Gin Sour variation first appeared in Hugo Enslinn’s 1916 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks, but the drink was all but forgotten with the disappearance of crème de violette from the U.S. market in the 1960s. The combination of gin and fresh lemon juice—sweetened with maraschino liqueur and crème de violette—started returning to bar menus around 2007 when Haus Alpenz began importing the latter ingredient into the U.S.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • Brandy Crusta

    Brandy Crusta

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog 

    This citrusy New Orleans classic, invented by Italian-born bartender Joseph Santini in the 1850s, might not be as famous as the Sidecar, but it in fact paved the way for the sugar-rimmed cognac drink. Legendary Crescent City bartender Chris Hannah is thought to have brought the concoction back to the city after a long absence in the early 2000s, adjusting the historically tart drink to suit modern palates with a combination of brandy, orange curaçao, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters.

    Get the recipe.

  • Jockey Club

    Jockey Club cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    A variation on the Manhattan, this cocktail stays in line with the spirit-forward simplicity of the original, mixing bourbon, sweet vermouth, and maraschino liqueur. Although the classic combination was featured in David Embury’s 1948 book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, a drink of the same name with wildly different ingredients (gin, lemon juice, creme de noyaux) actually appeared first in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book

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