Maraschino, the Dalmatian Liqueur that Conquered the World

Long live the Dominican monks, the inventors of maraschino! It’s thanks to them that we’ve been able to enjoy this unique liqueur since medieval times.

What is Maraschino

Maraschino is a liqueur made from cherries. But not just any kind of cherries. It has to be produced with a specific variety of the fruit that historically grows in Croatia, along the Dalmatian coast, and which goes by the scientific name of Prunus cerasus var marasca.

A Bit of History

In that area of Croatia, specifically around the city of Zadar, there once stood a Dominican monastery. This is where the seeds were sown of what we now know as maraschino. Although it’s not clear exactly when, it’s widely believed that at some point during the Middle Ages the monks set about making “rosolio maraschino”. What we do know for certain is that the earliest recipe that has survived to today dates back to sometime in the 16th century.

Based on the monks’ experience, the Venetian Giuseppe Carceniga perfected the production techniques. Not long afterwards, the merchant Francesco Drioli established the first industrial-scale production. That was in 1759, in territories that at the time belonged to the Venetian Republic, and his entrepreneurial initiative was a huge success.

A couple of centuries passed and the fame of maraschino showed no signs of waning. Its production, however, also spread to Italy.

How Maraschino is Produced

To cut a long story short, maraschino is made by macerating marasca cherries in an alcoholic solution. The mixture may contain only the fruit, or also the leaves and crushed cherry pits. The second step involves distilling the infusion, followed by the addition of sugar, water and other ingredients: the result has an alcohol content of around 30% and a flavour that harmonises the sourness of the marasca cherries with sweeter notes.

Maraschino, how to mix it

People in the know say that maraschino was a very common ingredient before the Prohibition era, and it has recently experienced a renaissance thanks to the craft cocktail movement. Accordingly, it features in numerous recipes. Here are the three most famous ones.



In the early 20th century, the bar at the Hotel Wallick in New York City was run by Hugo Ensslin. He was the inventor of the Aviation, which first appeared in his book Recipes for Mixed Drinks published in 1916. The preparation involves shaking gin, maraschino, créme de violette and lemon juice, then straining it into a cocktail glass and garnishing with a maraschino cherry.



This cocktail was inspired by the Manhattan and, like its forebear, is named after one of New York’s boroughs. The inventor was a bartender named Jacob Grohusko, who one day decided to mix equal parts rye whiskey and sweet vermouth, adding a dash of Picon bitters and maraschino. Stir, strain into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Mary Pickford


Dedicated to one of the brightest stars of Hollywood’s silent films, the Mary Pickford was invented in Cuba in the 1920s by bartenders Eddie Woelke and Fred Kaufman. It is prepared by shaking white rum, pineapple juice, grenadine syrup and maraschino. The mixture is then strained into a cocktail glass and garnished (optionally) with a couple of cherries.