What is the liquid in Luxardo cherries?

Quick Answers

Luxardo cherries are a popular garnish often used in cocktails. The liquid they are packed in is a sugar syrup that helps preserve the cherries and keep them plump and juicy. The main ingredients in the syrup are sugar, water, citric acid, and almond oil.

Luxardo cherries are a unique type of maraschino cherry distinguished by their rich flavor and deep red color. Unlike typical neon red maraschino cherries, Luxardo cherries are darker in hue and packed in a viscous, sweet syrup. This signature syrup both preserves the cherries and infuses them with additional cherry and almond flavors. But what exactly makes up this distinctive liquid? Read on to learn about the ingredients and production process behind the unique Luxardo cherry syrup.

What Are Luxardo Cherries?

Luxardo cherries originate from Luxardo, an Italian brand best known for its maraschino liqueur. The company’s history dates back to 1821 when Girolamo Luxardo established a distillery in Zara, now known as Zadar, Croatia. The Luxardo family perfected their original maraschino cherry recipe by macerating local Marasca cherries in Maraschino liqueur.

In 1947, the company relocated their operations to Italy after losing their distillery during World War II. They re-established their cherry production in Torreglia, Italy where they continue to produce their signature Marasca cherries today. The term “maraschino cherry” refers to the Marasca cherry variety rather than a specific preservation process. However, the Luxardo family did pioneer the maraschino cherry as we know it today.

Characteristics of Luxardo Cherries

Luxardo cherries differ from generic maraschino cherries in several ways:

– They are made from the sour Marasca cherry variety rather than generic sweet cherries. Marasca cherries impart a rich, complex cherry flavor.

– They are pitted by hand and processed in small batches rather than by machines in mass quantities.

– They are preserved in a sugar syrup rather than brine or bleached/dyed red. The syrup contains natural ingredients that complement the cherry flavor.

– The cherries are darker in color – a natural deep ruby red rather than neon artificial red.

– They have a firm but tender texture and a balanced sweet-tart cherry taste.

These distinctive traits make Luxardo cherries ideal for use as a cocktail garnish or for simply eating straight from the jar. Their complex flavor and natural color lend a touch of elegance that generic maraschino cherries cannot match.

The Luxardo Cherry Liquid Explained

So what exactly is in the special syrup that helps distinguish Luxardo cherries? The ingredients are quite simple:


Like any pickled fruit, Luxardo cherries need to be packed in a solution with a high enough sugar concentration to act as a preservative. The sugar syrup helps prevent spoilage by bacteria or yeasts that could cause the cherries to decay. The specific type and amount of sugar used in the syrup helps balance the sweetness and control the finished texture of the cherries.


The sugar is dissolved in water to create a syrup rather than packing the cherries in straight granulated sugar. The syrup evenly coats the cherries and allows for better distribution of the sugar as well as other flavoring ingredients.

Citric Acid

A small amount of citric acid is added to the syrup, which helps enhance the perception of the cherries’ natural tartness. Citric acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits and adds a bright, acidic balance to the heavy sweetness of the sugar syrup.

Almond Oil

Almond oil rounds out the major flavor components found in Luxardo’s proprietary syrup. A touch of almond extract is a signature flavor note in Luxardo’s original Maraschino liqueur, which the cherries were traditionally preserved in. The almond oil lends a subtle nutty undertone that complements the cherry flavor.

So in summary, the main ingredients that go into the signature Luxardo cherry syrup are:

– Granulated sugar
– Water
– Citric acid
– Almond oil

No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. The simplicity of the syrup allows the Marasca cherry’s natural flavors to really shine.

Production Process

Luxardo’s time-honored production process also contributes to the cherries’ superior quality:


Luxardo uses only Marasca cherries, which ripen to perfection under the Croatian sun. The cherries are harvested by shaking the trees and collecting the cherries in nets to avoid any bruising. Bruised or damaged cherries are discarded to ensure only perfect fruit is used.


The fresh cherries are pitted by hand one-by-one using a traditional cherry stoning tool. This gentle handling prevents tearing or mashing the delicate fruit. Machines used by mass producers can crush the cherries, releasing bitter flavors and turning them mushy.


The pitted cherries are submerged into hot syrup for candying. The high concentration of sugar causes the cherries to slowly absorb the surrounding syrup while remaining firm. Candying cherries this way maintains their structure better than simply soaking them in sugar.


Once candied, the cherries are packed along with the hot cherry syrup into signature glass jars. As the jars cool, the syrup thickens into the viscous, glossy liquid we recognize. The cherries are then pasteurized in-jar to prolong shelf life.


Unlike most commercial producers, Luxardo allows their cherries to mature in the jars for several months. This allows flavors to fully develop as the cherries soak in the syrup. Maturing results in a richer, more balanced cherry taste.

Storage and Shelf Life

When stored properly, Luxardo cherries will keep well for several years. Always store the cherries in their original syrup-filled jar, as the syrup contains preservative properties that prevent mold growth. Keep unused jars refrigerated once opened. An unopened jar kept at a consistent 50-70°F may last for up to 3 years without refrigeration.

Over time, the liquid will thicken significantly as the sugar syrup concentrates. This is perfectly normal. The cherries remain edible and the syrup can be diluted with a bit of water or cherry liqueur if desired. Properly stored Luxardo cherries may darken slightly but will remain safe to eat for years.

Uses in Cocktails and Food

Both professional and home mixologists prize Luxardo cherries for their use in cocktails. Their complex flavor and natural color make them far superior to neon red maraschino cherries. A Luxardo cherry makes an elegant garnish for classic cocktails like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. The cherries pair especially well with bourbon and ryes.

Beyond cocktails, Luxardo cherries can be used to enhance desserts like cakes, pies, parfaits. Add them to fruit salads or enjoy them straight out of the jar for a sweet treat. The cherries make a fantastic topping for ice cream sundaes. The syrup also can be incorporated into glazes, sauces, and vinaigrettes. Mixologists have even expanded into using Luxardo cherries in savory dishes like duck confit, meatballs, and chicken wings.

Alternatives and Substitutions

No other cherry quite matches the unique Marasca cherry flavor of Luxardo’s. However, acceptable substitutes include:

– Other brands of Marasca cherries like Fabbri or Cella – these are lesser known but closest in flavor profile to Luxardo.

– Amarena cherries – these Italian cherries are similarly packed in syrup and have an authentic dark color.

– Whole pitted sweet cherries – not ideal but work in a pinch. Opt for a high-quality brand packed in juice rather than syrup.

– Homemade – Maraschino or sweet cherries can be preserve at home in a simple sugar syrup.

– Cocktail cherries – while lacking the true cherry flavor, brightly colored cocktail cherries recreate the look.

When genuine Luxardo cherries are unavailable, these alternatives can provide a comparable appearance and reasonable approximation of flavor. But for the true Luxardo cherry experience, nothing else quite measures up to the original.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Luxardo cherries artificially colored?

No, Luxardo cherries obtain their rich ruby red color entirely naturally from the cherries and do not contain artificial coloring.

Are Luxardo cherries dyed?

Luxardo cherries are not dyed. Their color develops naturally during processing in the heated syrup.

Do Luxardo cherries contain preservatives?

No chemical preservatives are added. The high sugar content of the syrup acts as a natural preservative.

Are Luxardo cherries genetically modified (GMO)?

Luxardo cherries are not genetically modified. They are produced from natural Marasca cherries using traditional methods.

Are Luxardo cherries good for you? Are they healthy?

While high in sugar, Luxardo cherries provide vitamin C, antioxidants, and other nutrients from the Marasca cherries. Enjoy in moderation.

Nutrition Facts Per 1 cherry (13g)
Calories 33
Sugar 8g
Vitamin C 1mg


The signature Luxardo cherry syrup consists simply of sugar, water, citric acid, and almond oil. Yet through careful harvesting, handling, and production using Marasca cherries, Luxardo achieves a superior gourmet cherry unmatched in depth of flavor. When only the original will do, Luxardo cherries deliver an authentic Italian cherry experience perfect for enhancing cocktails or desserts. No imitators or substitutes quite capture the magic of Luxardo.

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