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

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

As a Wisconsinite, there are few drinks I enjoy more than a good old fashioned (with brandy, of course!).

And while I’ve always kept a jar of cheery, bright red maraschino cherries in my fridge, it wasn’t until I started working here at Taste of Home that I realized I was missing out. There’s a better garnish for my favorite cocktail: Luxardo cherries.

What are Luxardo cherries?

If you’re not familiar, Luxardo cherries are the original maraschino cherries. Each jar is packed with Italian-grown sour marasca cherries that are candied and then soaked in a sweet syrup.

Luxardo cherries 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.

Features of Luxardo Cherries

  • Italian-grown
  • Each jar includes roughly 50% cherries and 50% syrup
  • Ideal for cocktails and desserts
  • Gluten-free, non-GMO, Kosher and vegan
  • Family-owned

How We Tested Luxardo Cherries

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

I ordered a jar of Luxardo cherries from Amazon to determine whether or not 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 jar 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. 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 one of my favorite drinks: a 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

FAQ

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

What is special about Luxardo cherries?

Simplicity makes Luxardo cherries so special. They’re 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?

For the same reasons Luxardo cherries are special, they’re also expensive. The marasca cherries used in Luxardos are grown only in the north-eastern part of Italy. They’re paired with high quality ingredients and an age-old candying process.

Do Luxardo cherries have alcohol?

No, but the syrup Luxardo cherries are packed in comes from the same juice the brand uses for their cherry liqueur. The cherries do have a hint of rich, amaretto flavor, but they do not contain any alcohol.

What Other Reviewers Had to Say

“Wow!” writes verified Amazon purchaser Dean S. “Everything you thought you knew about maraschino cherries is out the window. Yes, they are pricy, but man, they are so good!”

Another verified Amazon purchaser, TheMissingLynx, overcame their skepticism, writing: “I admit, not being much of a cherry person, I wasn’t initially impressed. However, having recently experienced a side by side vs. plain old super market cherries, wow. There really is no comparison. They are ‘all that, with a cherry on top’.”

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

“Luxardo cherries in a cocktail are such an unexpected and pleasant surprise,” says Editor Lisa Kaminski.”They’re a major departure from the neon red maraschino cherries. And the syrup left behind! Don’t sleep on it! Drizzle a little into your cocktail or over ice cream. Consider Luxardos the Cadillac of maraschino cherries. They are grown up and just so good.”

“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. On a banana split, for example, or atop a Christmas dessert when you want a pop of color. 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. I already have plans to mix up a drink with gin (my spirit of choice). And my sweet tooth is eyeing up this chocolate-cherry brownie cake. The options are endless!

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 upwards of $20 a jar. They’re worth it!

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Katie Bandurski
As Senior Shopping Editor, Katie connects Taste of Home readers with the best gifts, deals and home products on the market. An avid foodie and a holiday enthusiast, Katie is an expert at cultivating meaningful moments. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and watching Christmas movies.