There are few drinks that don't benefit from the sweet, boozy taste of a maraschino cherry. But not all of these red little treats are made equal - so brush away the fluorescent red pretenders and opt for the incredible, real Luxardo Maraschino Cherries instead. The original Maraschino Cherries, with a recipe dating back to an Italian recipe from the 1800s, their incredible flavour will blow your cocktail-loving mind.
The story of the Luxardo family is, in many ways, the story of the 20th century itself. Ripped apart time and again by war, they persevered – and emerged on the other side stronger, with the recipes for their famous liqueurs and their family ties intact.
It all started, as so many things do, with a stroke of good fortune. Before there was even such a thing as the country of Italy, Girolamo Luxardo was asked to leave it. It was 1817, the Venetian Republic had fallen and the Kingdom of Dalmatia was on the rise – and, not for the first time, politics that seem so foreign to our modern minds changed the contents of our drinks cabinets forever.
In Zara, the capital of Dalmatia, Girolamo’s wife, Maria, happened to try a local liqueur: Maraschino. Distilled primarily by nuns, the people of Dalmatia had been producing this cherry-infused drink since medieval times. Maria was in love. The couple started experimenting, and in 1821 her husband founded a distillery to produce bottles of their much sought after – and finally perfected – recipe.
The family and its spectacular maraschino liqueur went from strength to strength, even earning an exclusive ‘privilege’ from the Emperor of Austria (which ruled Dalmatia at the time). To this day Luxardo maintains its “Privilegiata Fabbrica Maraschino Excelsior” designation.
For a time, it seemed like the family could do no wrong. They began introducing new products, including the delicious maraschino cherries in your December box, and in 1913 built the largest distillery in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the First World War, Zara was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy, and Luxardo became the most important distillery in their new nation. But nothing lasts forever, and like the rest of Europe, the Luxardo family was about to be torn apart by the horror of a second global conflict.
World War II was hard on the Luxardo family. Bombs flattened their factory, and three family members were murdered by Tito’s Partisans. It could have been the end of the Luxardo family’s legacy – but somehow they overcame.
As master mixologist and Luxardo brand ambassador, Gareth Franklin, explains, “For me, the most inspiring thing about Luxardo’s heritage is the tenacity of the family. The company was destroyed, family members executed and forced into exile after the Second World War, and that could have been the end. But instead, they rose from the ashes and worked hard as a family to keep their legacy going.”
After the war, a fifth generation of the Luxardo family was ready to make their mark. They opened a new distillery in Torreglia, in the Veneto region of Italy, and got back to business. The old factory was gone, but the lessons learned there were far from forgotten.
“Luxardo is the oldest family-owned liqueur maker in Italy,” Gareth says. “That brings a wealth of knowledge and techniques that aren’t often seen today. Maraschino, for example, takes up to four years to make. You can’t produce 50 different liqueurs like some companies do and maintain that level of integrity in your production process.”
One of the amazing recipes that persevered through the strife is for the delicious maraschino cherries in your December Gin of the Month box. A far cry from the fluorescent balls of syrup you’ll find in children’s drinks, these incredible cherries were first produced at the Luxardo plant in Zara around 1905.
Candied with the finest marasca cherry syrup, the cherries and syrup alike are delicious as ingredients in cocktails and cooking.
“Luxardo are the original maraschino cherries,” says Gareth, “and they’re all 100% natural – no artificial colouring, flavouring or thickening. They’re made with the finest marasca cherries, grown by the Luxardo family.”
For Gareth’s part, he likes to use the cherries to garnish a Martinez or Old Fashioned – “stirred to perfection and strong!” – and the syrup as a replacement for sugar syrup. He also heats it gently with butter and Chinese five spice to whip up a quick and delicious glaze for pan fried duck breast.
So whether you rustling up some special cocktails or simply garnishing your G&T with one of these luminous red wonders, you’re sure to taste the history and heritage of the Luxardo family in every bite.