preserving cherries {part two}

I lost my maraschino virginity about seven years ago.

I remember the day, as any girl would one that changes her life forever. I'd been browsing through Barnes & Noble when I saw a new cocktail book, and immediately recognized the name. It was by Nick Mautone, the guy who gave me my break in the New York City restaurant scene. I saw an ad in the New York Times back in 1999 for a hostess and reservationist opening at Gramercy Tavern. I'd been personal cheffing for a year, and decided it would be a good idea to learn some front of house skills to roundout my knowledge of what it takes to feed people.

Restaurant experiences are about so much more than the meal. I appreciate this now even more when a sitter is on the hook for $15 an hour.

But I digress.

Gramercy Tavern, GT as everyone who works there comes to call it, holds so many special memories for me. I've worked with some of the best chefs and restaurateurs NYC the world has to offer, and no other restaurant has replicated the feeling of being part of that team.

It was there that I also came to appreciate the art of cocktail making. Back then Nick was the General Manager and always had an amazing twist to add. The Ginger Tonic started with a homemade base of ginger-steeped simple syrup. Bloody Mary's—Mikey's favorite brunch drink, was reinvented as a Pickle Mary with housemade bread and butter pickles chopped up, and swirled in.

By time Nick's book came out, I was onto working with Drew Nieporent for a brief stint running his now-shuttered bakery in Tribeca. But those cocktails left a lasting impression, and I bought the book so I could start making them at home.


As I flipped through the pages, his recipe for maraschino cherries stopped me in my tracks. In all the years I'd been going to GT, even after I stopped working there, I never remembered ordering a cocktail with those cherries.There was clearly a lot of lost time to make up for here.

I've pretty much stuck with his recipe as written, with a tweak here and there. I nixed the star anise, wanting to keep my flavors a little less exotic. Recently, I came across pure black cherry juice at my local supermarket, it's this one from R.W. Knudsen, and decided to swap it in for the grape juice in Nick's recipe for a more intense cherry flavor. Although Nick calls for frozen bing cherries, I've been using this recipe to preserve the fresh bing one's coming in from the Pacific Northwest right now. If you planned ahead and already pitted and froze some cherries like I mentioned in my last post, then just add 2 to 3 more minutes to the cooking time.

Speaking of cooking time, if you're planning to can these using a hot water bath, then I suspect you should undercook the cherries since the boiling water will cook them a bit inside the glass jars.

More things to do with your cherries:

How to Freeze Fresh Cherries

Sweet Cherry Hand Pies


homemade maraschino cherries

makes one quart

adapted from Nick Mautone's book Raising the Bar

1/2 cup (125 ml) water

1/2 cup (125 ml) black cherry or concord grape juice

1/2 cup (4 ounces) natural cane sugar

Freshly juice (3 tablespoons/1 1/2 ounces/50 ml) of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

2 cups (9 1/2 ounces/266 grams) sweet bing cherries, pitted

Add the water, cherry or grape juice and sugar to a 2-quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and let cook 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the lemon juice, extract and cherries. Cook 5 minutes to let the cherries absorb the flavors, then remove the pot from the heat.

Transfer to a clean sterilized jar and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for long-term storage, or just pop the jar in the fridge if you plan on using them within one month.


  • Kate Morgan

    Love the story and recipe. I’m going to make these this weekend. Thinking of a fun hostess gift with all of the ingredients for a good Old-Fashioned. Thanks for sharing!

  • Niki

    I just came home from the farmers market with 24 lbs. of beautiful dark red cherries. Now I know what I’m going to do with at least a few of them. Thanks for the recipe (and the story)!
    JP’s note: 24 pounds—wow! I’m curious how much they cost. Ours were soo expensive here, around $6 a pound.

  • Tiffany Washington-Dow

    I just moved to WA from AZ a month ago and cherries are a plenty around these parts, along with preserving which I plan to try. Thanks for this recipe, i’m thinking it’s going to be my first preserving project (fingers crossed)

  • Britt

    These look incredible! Great to hear your history and connection to them too. I’m super behind on my canning this year, but these look like a must-try–even if I just decide to keep them in the fridge. 🙂
    JP’s note: what great about making homemade maraschinos is you can use frozen cherries too 🙂

  • Christine

    We have sour cherry trees. My husband bought a cherry pitter, and we compared it against the paper clip method. We found that the cherry pitter takes out more juice and cherry meat than the paper clip, so have stuck with the unfolded paper clip.

  • Ofelia21Garza

    I guess that to receive the personal loans from banks you should have a firm reason. But, one time I have got a short term loan, because I was willing to buy a house.

  • Tracy

    As part of my quest to process and preserve the 30 pounds of cherries that was given to me, I had canned, made jam, pie, cobbler and still had quite a few lbs left to do something with. The hub suggested maraschino cherries. I thought you can’t make those, can you? So, google brought me here. This recipe seemed like the easiest and it was. The cherries are good and sweet, but to me don’t have that ‘jarred from the store hot pink sticky’ ‘maraschino’ taste. I used 100% Cherry Juice I found at Trader Joe’s that I was lucky to find. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  • Jennifer

    Can you suggest substitutions for the cane sugar to keep this paleo. Can raw honey be used? If so, do you swap 1:1?

  • Jennifer Perillo

    I’ve only tested the recipe using natural cane sugar, so sorry I can’t comment on how it would work with a substitute. Please feel free to share your results if you give it a try.