A Lazy Drunk's Guide to Maraschino Cherries, in Honor of Winter Cocktail Season
Of course your laziness will cost you.
You can't ignore it now. There's an undeniable cold snap in the air, and pumpkin fever has taken over. It's time to switch up your cocktail, and if you're like me, the go-to cold weather spirit is usually bourbon or rye.
Maybe it's the smoke from the barrels recalling memories of last year's crackling fires. but an old-fashioned or a whiskey sour have always seemed appropriate when the days get shorter. And both of these drinks are nothing if they don't have a maraschino cherry as a garnish.
I'm sure you spent the end of your summer toiling away with a cherry pitter, obscure Italian liqueurs and a dozen Ball jars. Many bartenders in Dallas do now. There was a time when the bright orbs soaking in a bath of fructose were the standard for most cocktails, but those days have gone the way of summer's heat. Now drinks are garnished with pedigreed cherries from small-batch producers, if they weren't prepared by hand or by your bartender himself.
Earlier this year, we talked to Alex Fletcher from the People's Last Stand, who offered some pointers on setting cherries up in a sugary bath that would keep all winter long and if you gave it a shot, great for you. But if all this cherry talk has just inspired you and you're suddenly looking for your cherry pitter, please stop -- the season for fresh cherries is long gone.
The good news is that the rising popularity of maraschino cherries that actually taste like cherries has made them more available. Your average grocery store is still behind the times, but most liquor stores offer an upgraded option or two. Sigel's and Spec's both carry upgraded options; Williams-Sonoma, too. If you're feeling lazy (let's be honest, you couldn't even pit the damn things), Amazon will ship them to you.
And since there are more than couple brands available, I asked a few bartenders around town which they preferred when they're weren't making their own. The love for Luxardo was unanimous. The Italian brand might as well be the king of maraschino cherries. They also cost a ton. A 400 gram jar will set you back 16 bucks.
Use that as motivation to pull out that cherry pitter next year.
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