Luxardo Cherries: We Tried This Gourmet Ingredient and Now There’s No Going Back

Updated: Apr. 26, 2024

They are—quite literally—the cherry on top of any cocktail or dessert.

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As a Wisconsinite, there are few drinks I enjoy more than an old-fashioned—and not just any old-fashioned, a brandy old-fashioned. And while cheery, bright-red maraschino cherries are often the go-to at bars and my own fridge, I’ve learned over the years that switching up these sweets can really make my favorite cocktail sing. I’m talking about using Luxardo cherries.

What are Luxardo Cherries?

Not familiar with Luxardo cherries? These jarred cherries are actually the original maraschino cherries. Yep, they predate the neon red ones we know (and still love, especially in desserts like this chocolate-cherry Bundt cake). Luxardo has produced these next-level cherries since 1905, while our vibrant American versions came on the scene in the 1920s.

Luxardo cherries are made in Italy. Each jar is packed with Italian-grown sour marasca cherries that are candied and soaked in sweet syrup. Luxardos are on a different level than the ice-cream-shop maraschinos of your childhood. Each fruit is dark and sticky with a satisfying bite.

Plus, there are no artificial ingredients in Luxardos. You won’t find corn syrup or red dyes on the ingredient list, so the cherries actually taste like, well, cherries. They are also gluten-free, non-GMO, kosher and vegan. Each jar includes roughly 50% cherries and 50% syrup.

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How We Tested Luxardo Cherries

Toh Luxardo Cherries Img 7821 Katie Bandurski JveditKatie Bandurski/taste of Home

I ordered a jar of Luxardo cherries from Amazon to determine whether this garnish deserves a permanent spot on my bar cart.

When the box arrived on a rainy Sunday, I was eager to dig in. After all, what tastes better on a chilly fall day than a warming cocktail? I was happy to see the jar wrapped in a thick layer of packing insulation to protect the glass from any shipping accidents.

On Their Own

For my first test, I wanted to try a cherry on its own. I opened the jar and was immediately awed by the dark, almost-black color of the cherries and their juice. They look nothing like traditional maraschino cherries. And to my joy, they taste nothing like them, either. At first bite, I was hit with the earthy, juicy flavor of a fresh cherry. These are truly next level. There’s no broken-down texture and no sickly-sweet aftertaste.

In a Cocktail

Next, I made my aforementioned favorite drink: a sweet brandy old-fashioned. When made sweet, this supper club cocktail relies on both a maraschino cherry for garnish and a small amount of cherry juice muddled with an orange slice and bitters.

From my previous test, I knew the garnish would be delicious (especially once it soaks up some of the brandy…yum!). But the marasca cherry syrup really kicked my homemade drink up a notch. It tasted akin to what I’d order at a bar—but without the $12 price tag. Could these cherries actually save me money?! They’re also a delicious addition to a cocktail kit.

In Food

For my last test, I texted my parents for a copy of a beloved family recipe: maraschino cherry cookies. We’ve been making (and eating!) these gems for as long as I can remember, and they’re always a fan favorite. The recipe is a simple butter cookie, rolled into balls and dipped in sugar. Then, just before baking, you add a halved maraschino cherry to each mound.

Now, my family has always used the standard grocery store cherries for this recipe. But I was excited to see how they’d turn out with Luxardo cherries. I whipped up a batch, and my first impression was, “Wow, these look different!” As previously mentioned, Luxardo cherries have a dark burgundy, almost-black hue that sets them apart from red-dyed maraschinos.

At first bite, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia—then something new. This cookie had the same light, buttery taste I know and love, but the cherry was a brand-new experience. It yielded a richer, more luxurious bite, and the cookie as a whole was more satisfying. I didn’t have to eat five to get my “cherry fix.” One or two did the trick. And in my opinion, the improved taste of these treats more than made up for the lack of red color.

Like most cocktail ingredients, Luxardo cherries last for a long time when properly stored. The back of the jar recommends stashing at room temperature in a cool, dark place.

If you’re thinking, “Well, what’s the catch? These cherries sound too good to be true!”—here it comes. There’s one notable downside to Luxardo cherries. A 14-ounce jar costs upwards of $20—roughly 10 times more expensive than a standard jar of maraschinos from the grocery store. Ouch.

Pros

  • Beautiful cherry taste
  • Satisfying mouthfeel
  • Natural ingredients list
  • Grown and produced in Italy
  • Luxurious, restaurant-quality experience
  • Long shelf life

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Dark color is not ideal for holiday baking

How to Use Luxardo Cherries

a plate of cookies topped with cherries and a cup of coffee in the backgroundKatie Bandurski/taste of Home

While I’ll enjoy our cherries in an old-fashioned when the work week is done, there are lots of delicious ways to use Luxardo cherries in the meantime. And once you taste them, trust us, you’ll find excuses to use them (and the delicious syrup) any way you can.

Cocktails & Beverages

Luxardo cherries are the perfect way to upgrade any cocktail. Skewer a few Luxardo cherries onto a pick to garnish your favorite drink. Add these cherries to a Manhattan, Rob Roy or Tom Collins.

And don’t sleep on the syrup! Each jar of Luxardo cherries is packed with a thick, flavorful syrup. Use this in drinks that typically call for simple syrup or even grenadine.

Since these cherries and their syrup are alcohol-free, feel free to add a splash to kids’ Shirley Temples or into your morning cold brew.

Baking

While they won’t provide the same vibrant red color as the standard variety, Luxardo cherries are suitable in any recipe that calls for maraschino cherries. Some of our favorites include classic pineapple upside-down cake, cherry thumbprints and spumoni torte.

Frozen Treats

Cherries are one of our favorite ice cream toppings. So why not use them next time you host an ice cream social or make yourself a sundae? Try using the syrup in lieu of (or in addition to!) hot fudge on sundaes. Then top your banana split or turtle sundae with a Luxardo cherry or two.

You can also use Luxardo cherries in icebox cakes, ice cream pies and other no-bake desserts. They freeze well and make for a striking topping. Try Luxardo cherries in a no-bake cherry-almond pie, frozen cherry salad and banana split pie.

When shouldn’t you use Luxardo cherries?

While Luxardo cherries beat traditional cocktail cherries any day, there are still some times when the bright red option is better. If a recipe uses maraschino cherries to create a pink or red hue, use traditional maraschino cherries. Luxardo cherries and their syrup just will not provide that same color. The result will be dark and a very dull maroon.

Also, if you need maraschino cherries with stems, count Luxardo out. These cherries are stemless.

FAQ

Luxardo Maraschino Cherriesvia merchant

What do Luxardo Cherries taste like?

Opening up a jar of Luxardo maraschino cherries for the first time is pretty surprising. Inside, you’ll notice a striking difference compared to the typical cocktail cherries you see bobbing around in a jar. These cherries are small, dark—nearly black—and are packed in a thick syrup.

Luxardo cherries taste more like fresh cherries. They’re earthy, juicy and have some mellow nutty flavor as well. These cherries also have a satisfying texture. They’re tender yet still toothsome. They don’t have any sort of waxy consistency the way other cocktail cherries do.

What is special about Luxardo cherries?

Consider Luxardo cherries the Ferrari of cocktail cherries. These maraschinos are made in Italy and purveyed by several generations of the Luxardo family. The ingredients list is short and sweet, allowing the flavor and texture of the marasca cherries to shine.

Why are Luxardo cherries so expensive?

When you click “add to cart” or pick up a jar at the store, you’ll notice that Luxardo cherries cost significantly more than their bright red counterparts—about $20 a jar.

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.

Do Luxardo cherries have alcohol?

No, Luxardo cherries do not have alcohol in them (or the syrup). You will notice that maraschino cherries do share a name with maraschino liqueur. They share a name since both use marasca cherry juice—just in different ways.

What Other Reviewers Had to Say

We’re not the only ones trading in ruby red maraschino cherries for Luxardos. More than 8,000 five-star Amazon ratings are in agreement.

“Really want to buy these but think they are too expensive? They are worth it,” says five-star reviewer, David Phillips. “I’ve tried lots of alternatives that vary from pretty good to awful. But there is no replacement for these.”

Verified purchaser, Sherry T., shares a similar rave review: “These are the only cocktail cherry you should ever buy. They are rich and delicious and provide your cocktail with the perfect next-level taste. While they are ridiculously expensive they are special and have no rival.”

And it’s not just Amazon reviewers! Taste of Home staffers are equally smitten.

“My family owns a bar, and this is the only brand we use there,” says Content Director Ellie Martin Cliffe. “You haven’t had a maraschino cherry until you’ve tried Luxardo. They’re the grown-up version of the kiddie cocktail garnish: sweet and a little tart (with no artificial colors). We always have a jar around for cocktails and ice cream. Full disclosure: Sometimes I’ll sneak a cherry for a sweet little snack.”

Final Verdict

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of bright red maraschino cherries in some contexts. But for me, there’s no going back.

Luxardo cherries are well worth the price tag. They’re high quality, flavorful, natural and undeniably delicious. I can’t wait to continue experimenting with them in cocktails and cherry desserts.

Plus, with the holiday season on the horizon, consider giving a jar of Luxardos as a gift to home bartenders or as a stocking stuffer. And, thanks to their gourmet ingredient status, Luxardo cherries make a great gift for bakers too.

Where to Buy Luxardo Cherries

Luxardo cherriesvia merchant

You can pick up Luxardo cherries at a variety of retailers, including Amazon, Williams Sonoma and Walmart. Expect to spend around $20-$25 a jar. They’re worth it!

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Taste of Home Editor, Lisa Kaminski, contributed to this article