what kind of cherries are in an old fashioned

So a guy walks into a bar, and orders a Manhattan. Or was it an Old Fashioned? Maybe a Shirley Temple? Ah, whatever, you get the point–a drink with a cocktail cherry (or two) in it. Dad jokes aside, think back to the last time you ordered a whiskey cocktail at a bar or restaurant. You probably chose the whiskey going into the glass, and even the method of mixing–but did you choose the garnish? Not likely. We have no issues asking for a particular type of whiskey or having it poured into specific glassware, but these crafted libations are more than the sum of their parts aren’t they? The experience of having a delicious drink created just the way you like can really make for a special night out, and I wanted to look deeper into what is, in my opinion, an often-overlooked component to a cocktail. I realize that going into this level of detail is likely delving deeper into the bourbon geek realm than most people care for; however, it’s always struck me as an interesting rabbit hole, so why not take a microscope to it? Let’s have a look!

As a bourbon drinker, I love the array of cherry flavors that are often present in my glass–but it goes further than that. I love cherry notes in bourbon, black cherry seltzer, and I’m even lucky enough to have a Mother-in-law who makes me a sour cherry pie at Christmas time (and it’s damn good). Picking up that dark fruit and mild sweetness really sets off a drink for me, and cocktails that play off that flavor profile always fall in line with my palate. This has made me wonder if it really matters which chunk of fruit sits in the bottom of my glass, and it has also piqued my interest as to which cherries are the best in a cocktail–if there truly is a difference.

Wondering more about the red spheres idling peacefully in the bottom of my glass had me digging into the story of these miniature flavor bombs. The category of cocktail cherries is largely dominated by the Maraschino cherry. Without taking too much time on a lecture of cherry history, it’s worth mentioning that Maraschino cherries have actually lead a really interesting life so to speak. Starting off as a liqueur made from the Marasca cherry plant (and it’s fruit) and turning into a method of preserving the cherries themselves, and finally becoming a hot item within cocktail culture, I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before there’s a Netflix documentary on the Maraschino cherry–or is there already?

Maraschino cherries gained popularity in the United States prior to prohibition through cocktail culture, and the allure of a luxurious experience. When the United States decided ‘down with the booze’, this also impacted the cocktail fruit, as they were (at that time) still preserved in liquor. Outlawing liquor meant: you guessed it–outlawing maraschino cherries! Who would have guessed a garnish would become a controlled substance? During this time a professor from Oregon State University–Ernest H. Wiegand–developed a modern method of creating Maraschino cherries that didn’t use alcohol. Fast-forward to modern times and we have the classic American version of this Italian recipe in the form of bright red cherries that rest atop ice cream sundaes and in cocktails nationwide.

So are all cocktail cherries made equal? To quote Walter Sobchak: “Hardly, Dude.”. There are different styles of cocktail cherries out there today ranging from [nearly] neon red options under names ranging from mild to pretty damn wild. The options stretch across a large price range from expensive high brow options with ornate labels and packaging, to store brand generic label options for just a few bucks. These things have been driving me to do a full-on comparison across the range of cocktail cherries available. Does the cherry in a drink make a difference at all, and if it does, what exactly is the influence a small piece of fruit has on a cocktail?

The format for this breakdown will be fairly straightforward. I have six different brands (and a few styles) of cocktail cherries that I will use to do a side-by-side comparison to rate each cherry’s flavor (based upon the fruit and it’s syrup), as well as the texture of the cherry, and appearance of the cherry on a scale of one to ten (for a total of thirty points). Then I will make one batched cocktail (Manhattan – rye, sweet vermouth, aromatic bitters stirred with ice for thirty seconds) and pour about one ounce into six different glasses–each glass will contain a different cocktail cherry to complete the drink. Finally, I will rate the cherry’s impact on the cocktail on the same one to ten scale, which will give each cherry a possible max score of forty points. Hopefully we’ll see if there’s an ultimate small stone fruit to drop into our concoctions. Let’s dig in!

The Perfect Old Fashioned Ingredients Luxardo Maraschino Cherries – Do NOT use anything other than Luxardo cherries if you want your drink to be perfect. Cheaper maraschino cherries are not suitable for a proper old fashioned.
what kind of cherries are in an old fashioned

Round One – Appearance

Luxardo – Small fruit. Glossy and dark. Very glossy actually. The syrup is thicker but also has a fairly natural color in the glass. Fruit itself actually looks very nice. 8

Peninsula – Very deep and dark. Color is more purple than red. The thick syrup looks very rich and glossy. 8

Morello – A smaller fruit that looks very much like a cherry pie filling candidate, but does look a little ragged. Color falls between the “classic” and high-end offering. 6

Filthy Brand – Noticeable large, and battle-scarred cherry. Somewhat translucent and bright screamin’ red. Syrup is thin and neon looking. 5

Amarena – Dark, rich, and glossy. The syrup has a very natural looking color. Stem lends to the natural aesthetic. 9

Merry Maraschino – Slightly translucent fruit. Pale stem. Looks like a combination of a classic maraschino and a high-end option. Syrup is light and fairly thin. 6

Our “Food Fight” lineup (in no particular order):

  • Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
  • Trader Joe’s Morello Cherries
  • Peninsula Premium Cocktail Cherries
  • Filthy brand cherries
  • Trader Joe’s Amarena Cherries
  • Merry Maraschino Cherries (Stonewall Kitchen)

Note: Each cherry was placed into a glencairn glass because we’re a whiskey website…and to be honest it was the only vessel we could think of that would work for this.

Old Fashioned Cocktail


What are the dark cherries in drinks called?

Caption Options. In 1905, the distillery started selling cherries candied in a syrup of Marasca cherry juice and sugar, thus creating the original Maraschino cherry.

What are Luxardo cherries soaked in?

These are candied cherries soaked in Luxardo marasca cherry syrup. The percentage of marasca cherries in jars and tins is about 50% and so is the percentage of syrup. No thickening agents of any type and no preservatives are used and the dark red color is all natural.

Why are Luxardo cherries so expensive?

They are pricey because Luxardo uses marasca cherries, a particular type of cherry that’s only grown in northeastern Italy. It’s an uncommon variety and is therefore more expensive. Luxardo also uses high-quality ingredients and an age-old candying process, which pushes up the cost.

Are Luxardo and Amarena cherries the same?

Amarena Fabbri is another well known brand of cocktail cherry. They come in a distinctive (and beautiful) blue and white jar and are actually often more expensive than the Luxardo cherries. These use sweeter cherries than some of the other brands, so if you prefer that style of cherry, this is a great one to go with.

Which Cherry is best for an old fashioned?

Bing cherries are another good option for an Old Fashioned. They are sweet and tart, with a strong cherry flavor. They are easy to find in most grocery stores, and they are a good option if you want a more traditional-tasting cherry for your drink. Which cherry is the best for an Old Fashioned? That depends on your taste.

What is the serving size of cherries?

You can eat the portion you want of cherries. However, one compote per day is fine. Excess cherry can result in excess blood sugar and can also cause gastrointestinal upset.

Where can I buy old fashioned cherries?

They can be found online or in specialty stores. Bing cherries are another good option for an Old Fashioned. They are sweet and tart, with a strong cherry flavor. They are easy to find in most grocery stores, and they are a good option if you want a more traditional-tasting cherry for your drink.

Does a cherry belong in an old fashioned?

There are a few reasons why people might think that a cherry does not belong in an old fashioned. One reason is that the old fashioned is a whiskey drink. Many people believe that whiskey should not be mixed with other flavors, such as fruit. Another reason is that the cherry is not a traditional ingredient in an old fashioned.

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