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Cocktail Hour: Maraschino Liqueur Fit for an Emperor

Founded in 1821 on the Dalmation coast, Luxardo is still family owned and operated by the sixth generation of Luxardos. When Genoese businessman Girolamo Luxardo and his wife, Maria Canevari, moved to the town of Zara in 1817, Maria fixated on how to make “rosolio maraschino,” a liqueur native to the region since medieval times.

Her creation became so popular, the family founded a distillery to make it commercially, even receiving honors from the Emperor of Austria. That designation is still found on every Luxardo bottle, stating “Privilegiata Fabbrica Maraschino Excelsior.”

The distillery was badly bombed during World War II, forcing the family to relocate to the Veneto region of modern-day Italy. Giorgio Luxardo, the only brother to survive from the family’s fourth generation, carried on the tradition in the new location.

Clear-colored Maraschino Liqueur

Luxardo Maraschino is made from the Marasca cherries developed by the family, a sour cherry that grows in abundance in this region of Italy. The Luxardos alone farm some 22,000 cherry trees on the Euganean Hills of Veneto, the largest European orchards of their kind. One of very few liqueurs produced by distillation, the clear-colored Maraschino is aged three years in wood, finishing at 32% alcohol.

The producer also makes a line of Maraschino cherries for garnishing, a deliciously sour-sweet bite of Marasca cherries candied with Marasca syrup, the perfect garnish for any drink with Maraschino liqueur in the mix.

The Aviation is the perfect drink for both maraschinos. It’s a classic cocktail, the recipe for which can be traced back to the 1916 “Recipes for Mixed Drinks,” calling for two parts gin, one part lemon juice, a dash of maraschino and crème de violette.

That last ingredient is a story in itself, a crème liqueur with a brandy or neutral spirit base flavored with violets. The sugar content is so high that is almost like a syrup.

Originally drunk alone or mixed with dry vermouth, crème de violette has slowly been making a comeback with bartenders, who haven’t had access to it until recently, when Rothman & Winter crème de violette, made with flowers grown in the Austrian Alps, became the first to be imported into the U.S. in decades. Petaluma, Calif.-based Tempus Fugit Spirits is also now making a delightful crème de violette.

Classic Aviation

Serves 1

Created by Luxardo


2 ounces dry gin

½ ounce Maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo

½ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

¼ ounce crème de violette

Lemon peel

Maraschino cherry, preferably Luxardo


  1. Shake the first three ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  2. Use a bar spoon to float the Crème de Violette (which will sink) into the bottom of the glass.
  3. Garnish with a lemon peel and a Luxardo Maraschino cherry served on a cocktail pick.

Photo: Aviation cocktail.    Credit: Anchor Distilling Co.

Zester Daily contributor Virginie Boone is a Sonoma Valley-based wine writer. She has reported on the Northern California wine scene for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and its affiliate food and wine magazine, Savor, and is a contributing reviewer of California wines for Wine Enthusiast.