Maraschino Liqueur--To Have or Have Not

The Hemingway Daiquiri, or as is it more simply known, the Daiquiri No. 3, was created by Constante Ribalaiga Vert at the infamous El Floridita in Havana in the early years of the twentieth century. If you haven't been acquainted--and if you haven't, rectify this as soon as possible--this concoction is very closely related to the more traditional daiquiri (rum, lime, and sugar) except a bit of grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur are added to the mix. As with every other cocktail that has been around for multiple decades, the exact recipe will change depending on the drinker. The original recipe calls for but a teaspoon of both the grapefruit and maraschino, with the lime and simple syrup decreased accordingly. More contemporary recipes increase the portion of grapefruit to as much as a 1/2 ounce, while the maraschino, itself contributing intense, often overpowering flavors, is usually capped at around 1/4 ounce. An old school Hemingway is bright and nuanced; more contemporary variations burst with flavor.

Legend has this daiquiri was introduced to Hemingway on a chance encounter--he had ducked into the bar in search of a restroom and on his way out, the illustrious barman was lining the bar with frothy, refreshing house daiquiris. A curious man, Heminway opted to try one and the rest is well, assumption and interpretation. While the famed author and drinker opted to have his daiquiris made without sugar and with a double pour of rum--a variation known as the Papa Doble--most people are happy enough with the original version.

Hemingway Daiquiri (Randall house variation)

1 1/2 ounces white rum
1/4 ounce lime juice
1 ounce grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or into a chilled rocks glass

Notes on Ingredients: I used Chairman's Reserve silver rum and Maraska maraschino liqueur. 

I have always loved this cocktail. A big part of it is the grapefruit juice--in the summer I am drawn to its floral, brightness. But I also love the interplay of th citrus with the unique floral, woody notes of the maraschino. Those flavors create the depth that signals that a drink has been well-crafted--that little bit of restrained flair that keeps you coming back. But then again, I have always enjoyed what maraschino liqueur brings to a cocktail. But not everyone appreciates what maraschino brings to the glass.

Maraschino liqueur's flavor is not the easiest to pin down. Originally created from the tiny sour cherries that grow along the Dalmation coast in Eastern Europe, the first maraschino liqueurs were supposedly created as a sort of "maraschino rosolio." Rosolios are often homemade rose-flavored liqueurs consumed as tonics, often sipped  after dinner. While simple rose-flavored liqueurs were made, more often other flavors were added to create complex liqueurs. In the same way that a mirepoix creates a base for many soups and sauces, the rosolio becomes a foundation for the more principal flavors. 

But the complexity of this liqueur only begins there. The pits and stems of the maraska cherries are separated, fermented and distilled, creating a sort of grappa. The cherries themselves are distilled as well, creating an eau de vie.  Then the two distillates are reblended and aged in ash barrels for two years. When the aging process is complete, the spirit is then diluted and sweetened, often with a blend of honey or cane sugar--the precise sweetener often varies depending on the house's style. The slightly almond-like notes that maraschino is known for comes from the inclusion of the cherry pits in the process. Those characteristic floral elements come mostly from the distilled fruit, though perhaps some of the original "rosolio" has made its way in as well. Naturally, most distilleries do not disclose all of their secrets.

Maraschino liqueur has long been a major element in mixed drinks. It's presence can be traced back to many of the early punches that were widely consumed in the nineteenth century. As the more efficient cocktail overtook the flowing bowl, maraschino played its role as an alternative sweetener that brought big flavor. It is not surprising to find that it had made its way into daiquiris.

For those who do not appreciate the flavors of maraschino liqueur, another cocktail exists that highlights the wonderful intersection of grapefruit and lime. Made with rum, lime, grapefruit juice, simple syrup and angostura bitters, the Nevada Cocktail is just as lovely as a Hemingway. The Nevada first appeared in print in Judge Jr.'s compilation Here's How, published in 1927. Instead of the funky yet floral notes of the Hemingway, the Nevada's recipe instead relies on the spicyness of aromatic bitters to flush out the fullness. Because the Nevada reverses the proportions of the citrus juices, any floral notes instead are contributed by the grapefruit.

Nevada Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces white rum
1/3 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1)
1 dash angostura bitters

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Chairman's Reserve white rum and Angostura bitters.


  1. Dont you think that you have missed out some classic garnish on Nevada Cocktail? I think lemon wheels will go well with it.

  2. I have always considered garnishes a personal choice when completing a cocktail. Of course, adding one would be a fine option, though here I would opt for either a lime wedge/wheel because of the lime juice component. In general, I don't use garnishes where they don't actually add an essential flavor to the drink. I think the glass choice and actual cocktail actually create the more simplified presentation that I prefer.