Cocktail Cherry Tasting

We’re big fans of comprehensive tastings, whether they be for Vermouth, Old Tom Gin, Ginger Beer or the ubiquitous Fruit Cups, so, given the recent increased interest in homemade ingredients (including garnishes), I thought that it was about time to try a range of cherry garnishes. I sourced around half a dozen varieties, ranging from standard to gourmet American cherries.

Clockwise from top: Visciole del Cardinale, Opies Original, Filthy Maraschino

Clockwise from top: Visciole del Cardinale, Opies Original, Filthy Maraschino

We’re big fans of comprehensive tastings, whether they be for Vermouth, Old Tom Gin, Ginger Beer or the ubiquitous Fruit Cups, so, given the recent increased interest in homemade ingredients (including garnishes), I thought that it was about time to try a range of cherry garnishes. I sourced around half a dozen varieties, ranging from standard to gourmet American cherries.

In addition to trying each of the cherries on their own, we also tried them in a Manhattan.

#1) Opies Original (Maraschino Flavour)

These are one of the most common varieties of cocktail cherries made by B-Opies who were founded in 1880. They also make cocktail cherries coloured: Green (creme de menthe), Blue (blue curacao), Orange (curacao) and other garnishes. Ingredients*

Taster#1 (5) – Marzipan, then sharp and sour.
Taster#2 (5) – Marzipan to start, then very sweet.
Taster#3 (4) – Not great – too sweet and cloying.
Taster#4 (5) – Quite sweet, like cherry cola, with vanilla and almond. Has a reasonable texture.

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#2) Filthy Maraschino
Made by the American premium cocktail garnish company Filthy Food they are described as being “shockingly scarlet” and containing less than 1% of flavorings, coloring and preservatives.

Taster#1 (6) – A bit on the soft side; vanilla and heavy on the confectionery flavours.
Taster#2 (3) – Awful smell, soft fruity texture, too sweet
Taster#3 (4) – Lots of vanilla, bit of almond, quite artificial
Taster#4 (4) – Very bright colour, over-powering marzipan

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#3) Visciole del Cardinale

Hailing from Italy, Visciole del Cardinale are sour cherries in a thick pure sugar syrup, that’s it as such there are no colouring or flavourings. These cherries are also used for Visciolata del Cardinale and Acquavite del Cardinale. We tried the unpitted although pitted (no stones) are now available.

Taster#1 (8) – Slightly sour, strong cherry flavour with a hint of cough syrup, very tasty.
Taster#2 (8) – Genuine flavour, not too sweet, really like the pop of the texture
Taster#3 (7) – Good flavour tasty but the stones are a bit annoying
Taster#4 (7) – Juicy and miles away from the first two – lovely

Available in small jars (314gr.net) and large jars (1135gr.net)both pitted and unpitted. Available form Speciality Drinks for £26.95 for 1135gr.net.

#4) Opies Black Cherries with Kirsch

It is worth noting that these are probably designed to go in puddings (such as Black Forest Gateau) rather than cocktails but we thought we’d give them a go.

Taster#1 (4) – Too soft and soggy. The taste is not bad and it’s not too sweet.
Taster#2 (7) – The Kirsch goes well with the cherries. Flavour good texture soggy texture awful.
Taster#3 (7) – I really like these although the syrup is a bit strong.
Taster#4 (6) – Sogginess of the cherries really lets them down – good flavour.

#5) Filthy Black

Made by the American premium cocktail garnish company Filthy Food they are made from Italian Amarena cherry, slow cooked in copper pots. They also make a fine array of other garnishes such as olives including some stuffed with blue cheese. Their flagship product is an olive stuffed with a mini pickle which looks quite interesting.

Taster#1 (7) – Glacé cherry texture, with a nice flavour, not too sweet, tangy finish
Taste #2 (7) – Good taste and texture with a nice pop when you bite into it
Taster#3 (7) – Seems very much like a genuine cherry – that’s good.
Taster#4 (7) – A step above your average cherry with a slightly dark bitter taste

#6) Luxardo Maraschino Black Cherries

From Luzardo the Italian firm who also make a famous Maraschino Liqueur. They are made from cherries candied with Marasca syrup (what their liqueur is made out of). The contents of jar is stated as being a 50/50 split between  Marasca cherries and syrup. No thickening agents or preservatives are used.

Taster#1 (7) – A gluey texture and a taste of fruitcake and dark raisins; quite nice.
Taster#2 (7) – Tastes like a combination of cherry and raisins.
Taster#3 (7) – Quite a dark flavour. but pleasant.
Taster#4 (8) – Really like these, great texture, great flavour, yum!

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries are available for £7.49 for 400g from The Whisky Exchange.

How did they do in a Manhattan?

#1) Opies Original
This has slightly acidic notes, but you quickly get used to them after a couple of sips. The garnish and the cocktail seem to have very separate flavours that never integrate properly, with the cherry being marzipan heavy and the Manhattan tasting very much like an ungarnished Manhattan.

#2) Filthy Maraschino
Quite dry, with distinctive notes of the whiskey that work well with the strong vanilla of the cherries. This is quite sweet, almost dessert-like, although there’s a slightly cloying flavour afterward.

#3) Visciole del Cardinale
These are a lovely colour and produce a pleasantly dry cocktail; I’d probably add a little extra syrup next time I try this. The cherry most definitely takes centre stage when you come to eat it, though (beyond the fact that the stones get in the way!), with a strong, natural flavour.

#4) Opies Black Cherries with Kirsch
Not very attractive to look at and it takes a little while for the cherry’s flavour to really come through. The cherry also quickly disintegrates in the mouth, with a somewhat slushy texture. Unfortunately, although I’m sure some would like the texture of these, the whiskey seems to clash a tad with the Kirsch.

#5) Filthy Black
Sticky and sweet. The syrup from the cherry sticks to your teeth, and the general flavour coats your entire mouth with an artificial sweetness that then turns a bit acidic.

#6) Luxardo Maraschino Black Cherries
Good – the cherry adds a little sweetness and a hint of treacle and fruitcake. It both looks rather sophisticated in the glass and adds a subtle, but interesting twist to the drink. In addition, the syrup is heavy and pools at the bottom of the glass, meaning that you get a delicious, sweet  treat at the end of your drink.

* Ingredients:
1) Opies Cocktail Cherries – Cherries, Sugar, Water, Citric Acid, Flavouring, Colour E127, Preservative E220.
2) Filthy Red – TBC
3) Visciole del Cardinale – Cherries, Sugar
4) Opies Black Cherries with Kirsch – Cherries, Sugar, Kirsch
5) Filthy Black – Wild cherries, sugar, glucose syrup, filtered water, wild cherry juice, acidifant acid, natural flavourings, colour anthocyanins extracted from plants.
6) Luxardo – Marasca cherries, sugar Marasca cherry juice, glucose, citric acid, natural colour, Maraschino, flavours.

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