Homemade Maraschino Cherries – Don’t Put Any Old Cherry On Top | Cupcake Project

Homemade Maraschino Cherries – Don’t Put Any Old Cherry On Top


“Would you like homemade maraschino cherries?” asked the top-tier bartender at our local St. Louis restaurant, Monarch. My eyes lit up. Much like homemade grenadine, I had never considered the possibility of homemade maraschino cherries. Bartender Ted Kilgore explained that homemade maraschino cherries are made with maraschino liqueur. After trying one, I knew they would one day homemade maraschino cherries would be making an appearance in my kitchen.

Maraschino cherries are the iconic topping for cupcakes – a maraschino cherry even tops the Cupcake Project logo. Yet, I have never topped a cupcake with a cherry. Why not? I’ve always found maraschino cherries served in cherry Cokes, specialty cocktails, and yes, sitting on cupcakes to be pretty, but gross:

  1. They taste like cherry medicine – the flavor reminds me of the cherry Sucrets that I had as a kid to soothe my sore throat.
  2. A look at the ingredient list for maraschino cherries shows that most brands are simply cherries with high fructose corn syrup and red food coloring. EW!

Homemade maraschino cherries are super easy to make (once you get past pitting all the cherries). Compared to store-bought maraschino cherries, these are less red, more mushy, and much more boozy. They might not be for the kids, but adults will love them!

Homemade Maraschino Cherries Recipe

I found the recipe for homemade maraschino cherries on Serious Eats, which was adapted from a recipe found in Imbibe Magazine. I am reprinting it below, with my notes.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries – Don’t Put Any Old Cherry On Top

Homemade Maraschino Cherries – Don’t Put Any Old Cherry On Top


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (If you want to be really technical about it, it would be good if you could use Marasca cherries. Since most of us don't have access to them, any cherry will do - the redder the better. If you don't own a cherry pitter, you will definitely want to invest in one.)
  • 1 cup of maraschino liqueur (I used Luxardo brand. On Serious Eats, they just used a regular brandy and were not as happy with the results. eGullet has an interesting discussion thread on types of cherry liqueur that is worth a read.)


  1. Wash and pit the cherries.
  2. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cherries and liqueur and bring to a rolling boil.
  3. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Add the cherries and simmer for 5–7 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, add the liqueur, and let cool.
  6. Transfer the cherries and liquid into clean jars and refrigerate, uncovered, until cherries are cool to touch.
  7. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to two weeks.


The Cherry Stem

I can’t write a post about maraschino cherries without thinking about my ex-boyfriend. He may have been the only person I know who ordered cherry coke on a regular basis. Not only that, but he was one of those people who possessed the unique skill of being able to tie the cherry stem into several knots using his tongue. I have absolutely no clue how that can be done. It was pretty much like magic to me. Some say that that skill makes one better in bed, but that is not a subject for this post.

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54 Responses to Homemade Maraschino Cherries – Don’t Put Any Old Cherry On Top

  1. Sylvia June 8, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

    Family lore has it that some French ancestors of mine made something akin to this, but it wasn’t cooked. Basically just cherries soaked in some sort of alcohol for a long time. One jar had some bad cherries in it that ruined the flavor, so they threw the cherries out in the yard for the chickens to eat. Next thing they knew all their chickens were passed out cold from over imbibing!

  2. Jen H June 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    I might be making pina colada cupcakes soon and was cringing at the idea of having to top them with a fake red maraschino cherry. I’ll have to try this!

  3. veggievixen June 8, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    i always hated those cherries too. they totally tasted like cough medicine. that is awesome that you made your own. i’m sure they tasted much better.

  4. Ivy June 8, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    No I did not come here looking for results but now that you mention it…
    Ugh. Friday. The suspense is killing me!

    Love the cherries!

  5. Amanda June 9, 2009 at 8:12 pm #

    I’m with you – I had no idea that maraschino cherries could be homemade!

  6. Susan C June 10, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

    Once in a while, I’ll find a bar that serves these kind of REAL maraschino cherries on their Manhattans. I always feel like asking for a bowlful. They are that good.

    Can’t wait to try this. (And, hopefully, I won’t pass out cold like Sylvia’s family lore chickens.)

  7. Le Meems June 10, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    See, I love cherry coke. And fake, plastic maraschino cherries.

    Tehy remind of being a “big girl” and finally getting to order a “drink” with my folks when we went out to dinner.

    But, this sounds like a really COOL recipe to try this weekend. If it works out, then I’d love to gift them in little baby jars next weekend at my birthday party :)

  8. laura June 12, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    these look great. will definitely have to try them.

  9. Morta Di Fame June 14, 2009 at 8:47 am #

    Thanks! There seemed like there was no work-around except buying the processed crap when I make my pineapple upside-down cake, now I can make it so much healthier thanks to you!!!

  10. Joyce June 15, 2009 at 5:54 am #

    Tried the cherries this weekend, they are great, thanks! Can’t say enough about wearing gloves to pit the cherries. I didn’t and my hands are a mess.

  11. hungrywoolf July 8, 2009 at 6:59 am #

    Did you leave the cinnamon stick in the jar or remove it after the mixture cooled?

  12. Stef July 8, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    I left the stick in the jar.

  13. Anna July 12, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    I went on a wild goose chase round London on my bike to find Maraschino liquor. It was well worth it. The sour cherries I got from a friends front garden now taste amazing. They didn’t right away… but after a a few days in the fridge – YUM! Thank you.

  14. Anna July 12, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    Oh yes, I’ve saved and cleaned the cherry pits/stones for baking blind. Less of a mess than dried pulses and way cheaper than those ceramic beads.

  15. Stef July 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Anna – So glad to hear that it worked well for you!! Thanks for letting me know. Great idea using the pits for pie weights. Never heard of that before.

  16. qmixalot April 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    I also make my own maraschino cherries, but I use dehydrated cherries so I don’t have to pit them. http://qmixalot.com/maraschino-cherries

  17. DaveMTx June 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    I find that canned (comes in a glass bottle) sour cherries in light syrup soaked in Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur for a few weeks work well. Much less expensive than the Luxardo version. The cherries I find are from Iran or eastern Europe.

  18. Billy Abbott August 7, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Many thanks for this – finding a recipe that doesn’t involve red food colouring is worryingly difficult. Mine are now cooling and I’m looking forward to a nice cocktail or two in a couple of weeks.

  19. Anonymous October 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    Talking about tying knots in the stems. My daughter, Lana, has been doing that since she was in her teens. Barbara FB.

  20. Ish May 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    Hmmm, I wonder if you could add some beet juice to pump up the red color. That stuff seems to stain ANYTHING!

  21. dweeb_girlie July 20, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    if you want a non-alcoholic version try this:
    No-Booze Maraschino Cherries
    from Raising the Bar by Nick Mautone

    1 1/2 cups water

    1/2 cup red grape juice (use 100 percent juice)

    1 cup sugar

    3 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice (from approximately 3 lemons)

    Pinch of salt

    1 whole piece star anise

    1 pound sweet cherries, pitted

    1 teaspoon almond extract

    In a nonreactive saucepan, add the water, grape juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt and star anise. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

    Add the cherries and almond extract. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until the cherries have exuded some of their juice and the syrup has taken on a distinctly cherry flavor. Be careful not to overcook. The point is not to actually cook the cherries, but to heat them in the syrup just long enough to bring out their essence.

    Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the cherries and the syrup to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate. The longer the cherries steep, the more flavorful they will become.

    • cherrycherry28 July 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Thank you! As a recovering alcoholic, I was debating the cherry liqueur. :)

  22. Anonymous August 11, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Thank you to dweeb_girlie and the cupcake project for the recipes!!! I didn’t realize there was alcohol in the recipe and was sad because I can’t have alcohol because it really irritates up my digestive system! so thank you for the non-alcholic version that I can have!

  23. Matt Forster September 3, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    I notice you use sweet cherries. I was reading online that Marasca cherries are a “sour cherry.” How do you think it would play with a tart cherry? I am going to give it a try cause that’s what I have available, but I was wondering if you thought it would have that delicious tension of sweet and tart you get with cherry pie.

  24. Stef September 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Matt – I bet it would be great. How did it turn out?

  25. Test Kitchen and Bar November 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    Looks pretty tasty. Luxardo’s Maraschino Liqueur is so darn delicious. I added bourbon to my combo, but many of the components are similar otherwise.
    Bourbon Spiked Cocktail Cherries

  26. Jodi November 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Will these work as chocolate covered cherries? My main concern is whether they need to be refrigerated after they are preserved. My cherries sit for two weeks at room temp to allow the fondant to liquefy. Then I give them as Christmas gifts. I’d love to make my own cherries, but will they spoil at room temp?

  27. Joel May 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    I thought I’d heard that jarred maraschino cherries were done with unripe cherries, then cured like olives are (wikipedia confirms, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maraschino_cherry). Then artificial colors (red or green), sweetener, and voila.

  28. Angela Watts June 1, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Hmmm, just realized the only cherry liquor our local liqour store had was red….oh well. If they turn out well I can always track down the good stuff to repeat the experiment. With tart cherries, cause I am so finding some this year if it kills me. Thanks for the recipe and an excuse to buy a cherry pitter, plus something crafty to do on my day off.

  29. Anna December 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Would it be possible to can these so that they last longer??

  30. Rose July 6, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Great idea, and thank youu for sharing (those store boughts are disgusting). Anyways, I’m not sure how to say it w/o sounding like a troll, but honestly there are so many grammer and sentence structure mistakes (using “they” instead of “them” I assume), and the the directions, step 2 is missing most of it… oh, there, is Step 4 the other half of Step 2?
    Again, thanks for the ingreds, ill be makng this & sharing w/my muminlaw, however, I wont be sharing your site due to the amazing amount of confusing sentences (thelast thing I want is to confuse a senior).
    Thanks, and again, sorry if I sound like a dbag.

    • cherrycherry28 July 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Now, that’s funny, Rose! You have spelled ‘grammar’ incorrectly, typed ‘the the’, forgot the punctuation and capitalization for the word ‘I’ll’ and ran the words, ‘the last’ together. Might I add that you spelled ‘you’ incorrectly, added an unnecessary ‘s’ to the word ‘anyway’ and your punctuation sucks overall. Thanks for the laugh.

    • rosacherri July 7, 2013 at 6:52 am #

      Why do Americans always use “anyways”? This is NOT grammatically correct – so please Rose change your speech to “anyway” and that way we won’t think that you sound like a ‘dbag’ nor a ‘troll’

    • Stef July 9, 2013 at 8:45 am #

      Woah – I had no idea that my post had gotten so messed up. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. It has been fixed and I hope that you will understand that it was a formatting error, not something indicative of my writing abilities.

  31. Seth November 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Just for clarification- the cherries will start to go bad in the fridge after 2 weeks?

    • Stef May 27, 2014 at 11:05 am #

      They will probably be fine, but unless you properly can then, I wouldn’t guarantee them past two weeks.

  32. Dana Cashin January 31, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    Loved the sounds of these – is there any way I can can these for future use and how?


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