May 2, 2009

Life is just a bowl of sickly-sweet, sugar-soaked cherries.

Pity the poor Maraschino has to endure the endless shame of being considered nothing more than a artificially-colored, sugar-drenched decoration for ice cream sundaes and the occasional cocktail. An ignominious end for what was once a much more interesting foodstuff.

Pre-Prohibition, a Maraschino cherry was a far more complicated (and alcoholic!) item; it was, in fact, a Marasca cherry that had been soaked in Maraschino liqueur, itself distilled from Marasca cherries, pits, skins, stems, fruit and all. And its pronunciation belied it's Old World roots; [mar-uh-SKEE-no] (I'll spare you the actual International Phonetic Alphabet spelling, because while I'm that geeky, I'm betting most of you are not). But then the Great Experiment rolled around, and even mere cherries soaked in liquor became too much to tolerate for the killjoy tee-totalers, and by the time everyone realized how miserable life was without booze, the cherry had been transformed into it's modern day incarnation; tooth-itchingly sweet, eye-gougingly red, and a pale shadow of it's former self.

However, I'm happy to say that Maraschino liqueur can still be had if you're willing to look (and pay) for it. And to that end, I've procured a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino, and will be doing interesting things with it, the first of which is tonight's cockail, the Aviation.

Now, the original Aviation made use of a very rare ingredient, crème de violette, made from the eponymous flower, giving it a pale, blue-violet tinge, much like the sky in which actual aviation takes place. Since it's so hard to find, most modern takes on the Aviation do without, and are thus made of three simple ingredients: gin, Maraschino, and lemon juice, in a 4:1:1 ratio, like thus:

2 oz gin
1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz lemon juice

Shake well with ice and fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This drink actually marks my first run in with Maraschino liqueur, and I'm delighted to say that it will definitely not be my last. The cherry flavor, what you'd expect to be most prevalent in this drink, is actually really subtle; the Maraschino brings flavors that are almost sweet and woodsy to the drink, even a little bit of an almond note. It's really hard to describe, but it's not at all what you'd expect. I think cherries soaked in this stuff would be nothing short of awesome. I very much look forward to trying Maraschino in more drinks...


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