The One Splurge Your Home Bar Needs, According To Bartenders

If you've invested in a home bar or bar cart, you really need this bartender-recommended garnish to make your cocktails complete.
A springtime cocktail garnished with Luxardo Maraschino cherries from Williams Sonoma.

As world-renowned bartenders will tell you, even the chicest home bar isn’t complete without one thing: a fancy container of traditional soaked cherries.

Don’t be fooled by those firetruck red, sugary-sweet maraschino cherries you see among ice cream toppings at the grocery store; they’re an American creation invented by a horticulturist during prohibition. The original soaked cherry was launched in 1905 by Luxardo, an Italian distillery famous for its cherry liqueur. Unlike neon maraschino cherries that are brined, bleached and dyed, traditional soaked cherries are candied and preserved. They’re a darker, more tart type of maraschino cherry, with complex flavors in their syrup, made with specially farmed cherries that keep their flavor and integrity during the intricate preservation process.

Because of this, they also come with heftier price tag, ranging from $12-30 for a single jar. But bartenders promise they’re worth every penny.

“Soaked cherries are a must-have garnish to any decent bar for garnishing some of the best classic cocktails,” said Sergio Leanza, owner and bartender of the London cocktail and natural wine bar Funkidory. “I love leaving the cherry in the glass to enjoy last when the drink is finished.”

Liam Broom, a bar manager at London luxury cocktail bar Silverleaf, said that soaked cherries aren’t just classic, they’re versatile. Calling soaked cherries “the quick-pickled onions of the bar world,” Broom explained how these tart fruits always come in handy.

“You can keep a jar around at all times for an emergency pop of richness and color to any drink or dessert,” said Broom, who suggests refrigerating your soaked cherries after opening. “For the most part, I keep soaked cherries as a garnish. However, they can be used as an ingredient, too. Spice up a mint julep, anything with ginger beer like a Moscow mule, upgrade a homemade lemonade, etc. They are also great over ice cream!”

Whether you’re whipping up cocktails, mocktails or just classic ice cream sundaes, soaked cherries make for an effortless, but elegant addition to any bar or kitchen. To help you in your cherry-picking, Leanza, Broom and other bar tenders share their soaked cherry tips.

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Luxardo Maraschino cherries, for the OG cherry on top
Hailing from the aforementioned Luxardo distillery, Luxardo cherries are the OG maraschinos. Candied cherries in a non-alcoholic marasca syrup from a sour cherry grown in Croatia, Luxardo Maraschino cherries can be used as a mixer and garnish in drinks and desserts.

"We only use Luxardo maraschino cherries at Funkidory," Leanza said.
Fabbri Amarena cherries, for some sweet and tart action
For something that's as aesthetic as it is tasty, Fabbri’s Amarena cherries come in a chich white and blue container and feature smaller, more tart cherries and a rich, non-alcoholic syrup. They're made from Amarena cherries, so they're tart and not sugary sweet. They're perfect for a variety of drinks and treats, with booze and without.

"Using the syrup from a jar of soaked cherries, you can make a number of 'sour style' drinks by replacing regular sugar syrup with the cherry liquor from the jar," said Liam Davy, bar director for UK-based restaurant group Hawksmoor and London cocktail bar The Lowback. "If you have a non-alcoholic soaked cherry syrup, why not make a U.S. diner classic, the cherry egg cream (which weirdly has neither egg or cream)? Add cherry juice to whole milk and top with soda all over ice."
Woodford Reserve bourbon cherries, for booze-forward drinks
If you're more of an Old Fashioned or Manhattan drinker, than, say, a Malibu bay breeze aficionado (i.e. you like something booze-forward and not sugary sweet), Beach suggests using cherries that aren't drenched in sweet syrup.

"Make sure to rinse away the syrup from the cherries before using them," he said. "You don’t want to add too much sweetness to your cocktail and spoil it."

These bourbon cherries from Woodford Reserve still have their stem, making them easy to grab and rinse off before using. They're soaked in bourbon, so make sure they stay out of reach of kids and non-drinkers. They have a stronger taste than a traditional sweet cherry, so they're a perfect addition to booze-forward cocktails.
Peninsula Premium cocktail cherries for a budget-friendly option
Andrei Marcu, the bar manager of London-based cocktail bar Coupette, says that soaked cherries can be versatile in the kitchen, too.

"Always keep the cherries in the jar with the syrup covering them," Marcu told HuffPost. "You can even use them in cooking or as a quick snack."

These Peninsula Premium cocktail cherries are a little more budget-friendly and come in a shallower jar for easy grabbing. They're made from American cherries grown in Michigan and have a really classic cherry taste that can be played up or down, but isn't overpowering.
Tillen Farms Fire & Spiced maraschino cherries for complex booze-free drinks
While there's no wrong way to make a cherry-topped drink, Will Meredith, a bar manager at London cocktail bar Lyaness, says that spiced or otherwise flavored non-alcohol soaked cherries can totally elevate both booze and booze-less beverages.

"Soaked cherries are a great and easy way to add complexity and nuance to drinks," Meredith told HuffPost. "In terms of non-alcoholic serves, popping a cherry that has been macerated in something herbal or vegetal is a great way to build body into a clean, crisp highball."

These Fire & Spiced maraschino cherries have been soaked in cinnamon and chili extract, giving them extra flavor and complexity. They're American grown cherries, and the syrup has no added dyes.

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