After my recent post on Maraschino cherries, my interest in Maraschino liqueur was piqued. I had considered purchasing some over the internet, but hesitated, unsure of if I could find a cheaper alternative. Not two days after that decision, I walked into a local liquor store, and what do I find on the specialty table but several imported bottles of Maraska Maraschino liqueur. How fortuitous!
The only history I could find on the internet comes from the Croatian maker of the spirit. But before we get to that, it is fairly well known that Maraschino is a Croatian drink first and foremost, and migrated to Italy likely with the importation of the Marasca cherry.
The liqueur appears to have started out as many liqueurs did, as a medicine created and doled out by monks at a Dominican monastery in Zadar (located in what is present day Croatia). IN the early 1500′s, they prepared a spirit called Rosolj. Later named maraschino, after the cherry used in the drink, it gained popularity, due not so much for it’s medicinal qualities, but rather because it was tasty and altered the consciousness of those who drank the stuff to excess.
The above is an educated guess, based off the fact that many alcoholic beverages started out as medicines only to be abused and then sold as a drink. Read the early history of whiskey to see what I mean.
The popularity of the drink was likely the doing of the traders of Venice, as Zadar fell under Venetian rule at the time. The Italians took it world wide, including to America, where we promptly made the drink illegal (along with the majority of other liquors) and applied the name to an electric neon day-glo candied cherry that had lost it’s connection to the spirit. Such is the culture of American food.
Oh, and by the way – It’s pronounced mare-uh-SKEE-no, rather than mare-uh-SHEE-no. I think I’ll apply the former pronunciation to the liqueur, and the latter to the candied cherries.
Eyes: Maraschino is as clear as pure water. However, it’s somewhat thicker that water.
Nose: Sweet, and very cherry-like with a hint of wood.
Taste: If you like sweet liqueurs, Maraschino is for you. Tastes of cherries, almonds and even honey are present. There is an overall “woody” taste as well which works to temper the sweetness a fair amount. The aftertaste left my palate a little numb, and left a bit of a plastic taste, but overall, the drink is quite pleasant.
Overall: I love this drink. Not only is it tasty straight up or on the rocks. It mixes very well, giving drinkers a variety if options. My favorite so far? Mixed with Club Soda and a bit of Campari. Yum! I have a strong feeling that it would combine quite nicely with Amaretto. Even Gin has some possibilities.
I would absolutely buy this again. Luckily they have an order page with other liqueurs that I am wanting to binge upon.