8 Maraschino Liqueur Substitutes 

Maraschino liqueur is used as a flavoring agent in all sorts of drinks. One of which is the Martinez cocktail, which has become known as the “father of martinis.” The unique flavor of maraschino liqueur can liven up drinks and give them a taste many dream of.

The 8 Best Maraschino Liqueur Substitutes for Your Cocktails

Because maraschino liqueur offers such a distinctive and eccentric taste, you may have been led to believe that it’s the best, or even only, drink of its kind. Fortunately, this is not the truth and there are multiple other options to use instead of maraschino liqueur. 

Some of the best substitutes for maraschino liqueur are cherry heering, cherry brandy, amaretto, cherry syrup, kirsch, port wine, cherry extract, and cherry vodka.

How Is Maraschino Liqueur Made?

Luxardo was the first brand to make a maraschino liqueur, pioneering the beverage in 1821. This original drink has had a major influence in bars all over America. Though Luxardo was the first, most brands who make maraschino liqueur use a similar process.

The name of maraschino liqueur might suggest that it’s made from maraschino cherries, the bright red fruits used to top off sundaes. But this is not the case, and maraschino liqueur is made from Marasca cherries that are native to Italy and Croatia. 

Traditionally, maraschino liqueur was made by soaking these Marasca cherries whole into liquor. Nowadays, the process is a bit different and may vary slightly between brands. Generally, marasca cherries are macerated and crushed along with their pits into alcohol.

Variations of the Creation Process

The first step tends to be the same across the board, but after that, the process can depend on what distillery is making the liqueur. For example, Luxardo infuses alcohol into the cherries and lets them age for three years. 

This is done in large wooden vats. After the cherries have aged in alcohol, they will be blended with a basic syrup to reduce their alcohol content. But, whether Luxardo is your favorite maraschino liqueur or not, plenty of other drinks can be used in its place.

What Does Maraschino Liqueur Taste Like? 

The taste of maraschino liqueur is somewhat bitter and dry, of course with hints of sour cherry. It also may include notes of almond. There is a noticeable sweetness in maraschino liqueur, but it is not quite as sweet as some other liqueurs. 

It can be drunk on its own or with a blend of other drinks. Maraschino liqueur is also sometimes used as a digestif. It mixes perfectly with various flavors, from fruity to dry. It pairs well with almost any other liquor as well, including rum, gin, brandy, and whiskey. 

What Can I Use in Place of Maraschino Liqueur?

While it has a very distinct flavor that it is loved for, the taste of maraschino liqueur does not necessarily have to come from the liqueur itself. Here are some of the most popular replacements for maraschino liqueur: 

1. Cherry Heering

Cherry Heering is perhaps best known for being a Luxardo maraschino liqueur substitute. It was first made in Denmark, and has a pungent cherry flavor. To make Cherry Heering, spices and neutral grains are combined with Stevens cherries.

This combination creates a drink that is both sweet and bitter, making it a great competitor with Luxardo maraschino liqueur. It does have a red hue, so be mindful of that when using it as a substitute. It is known for its sweetness, but there is also a less sweet version that will say “true brandy” on its label.

2. Cherry Brandy

Cherry brandy, as you probably guessed, is made from regular brandy with added cherry flavoring. Because it’s made from brandy, it can be a great base for cocktails. The flavoring gives it a subtle sweetness while still hanging onto the bitterness of brandy.

One of the most popular brands of cherry brandy is Bols Cherry Brandy. Whatever brand you decide on, cherry brandy can be used for cocktails, or even as a sweetener in baking. By adding some sugar or sweetener, it can make a nice dessert syrup.

3. Amaretto

Amaretto is typically not a very popular drink choice, but it does have a striking resemblance to maraschino liqueur. It is an Italian liqueur that is mixed with sour cherries, making its taste sweet yet sour, bitter, and nutty. 

4. Cherry Syrup

For something that has the cherry element but not the alcoholic element, you could go with cherry syrup. Though this may not be the first option that comes to mind for someone who regularly drinks, it is multifaceted and can be useful.

When making cocktails, just add some cherry syrup instead of maraschino liqueur to give your drink its desired sweetness. Maraschino liqueur is known for pairing well with other spirits, so this won’t cause much of an issue with flavoring.

Using cherry syrup as a maraschino liqueur replacement can also be a plus for people who don’t consume alcohol, or for families. It can make up a nice mocktail, or be added to desserts like ice cream or cake for some extra sweetness.

5. Kirsch

Kirsch is a drink with German origins. In German, the word “kirsch” translates to “cherry”, so it only makes sense that Kirsch can be a great replacement for maraschino liqueur. Like most maraschino liqueurs, Kirsch is clear in appearance. 

Its cherry flavor is made by distilling morello cherries. These cherries are fermented whole beforehand, so they already have a tangy flavor. The taste of Kirsch also has notes of almond, like maraschino liqueurs such as Luxardo. 

6. Port Wine

More than anything, port wine has a very similar aroma to that of maraschino liqueur. It is often compared to Cherry Heering, which is also a nice replacement for Luxardo. Port wine comes from Portugal, and is a type of red wine.

It is often used as an ingredient for desserts because of its sweetness. Its flavor is rich, sweet, and bitter, of course with notes of cherry. There are two types of port wine you might find at the store; one is a beige color and the other is red.

When using it for cooking, go for the red port wine, as its flavor is slightly less sweet. For drinking, the variety you choose only depends on if you like sweeter drinks.

7. Cherry Extract

Like cherry syrup, cherry extract is a perfect maraschino liqueur substitute for those who aren’t heavy drinkers. It has a very thick consistency, and an extremely sweet flavor. Another bonus of cherry extract is that it doesn’t have the bitter elements that liqueurs do.

When using cherry extract, test out a few drops first to see how your taste buds react. It has an intense sweetness, which can be overwhelming for some. You can always add more, but especially in baking, you can’t really take any out.

8. Cherry Vodka

It’s no secret that a wide variety of flavorings exist for vodka. If you don’t mind vodka, using cherry vodka as a maraschino liqueur replacement will work just fine. It is often widely available in stores, and inexpensive. 

The brand Absolut makes a “berry and cherries” flavor variety that is comparable to maraschino liqueur. Its taste is unsweetened, making it a great base for cocktails. Because of its bland taste, it can also stand in for other spirits like Kirsch. 

Homemade Cherry Liqueur

If you have the means to, and want to take on a project, you can make maraschino liqueur from home. To do this, you’ll need 24 ounces of cherries, ten ounces of sugar, and 750ml of vodka (80 proof is recommended but you can choose any alcohol content).

First, you’ll have to remove the cherry pits. Then, put the cherries into a large glass jar along with the vodka and sugar. Close the jar and shake it well to dissolve the sugar. After this, make sure the lid is still on tightly and leave your mixture in a cool, dark place for eight weeks.

Once eight weeks have passed, remove the solid cherries from the jar and add half a cup of cane or sugar syrup. After this, all you have to do is let it age again, this time for around three months. 

How to Choose the Best Substitute For Maraschino Liqueur 

To choose the best maraschino liqueur substitute for you, there are a few things you might want to consider first. For example, if you like the sweet element of maraschino liqueur, going with something simple like cherry extract would work for you. 

If the opposite is true and you like the bitterness, choosing something like Kirsch or Absolut vodka should satisfy your needs.

Flavor

The flavor of maraschino liqueur is complex, and both bitter and sweet. It also has notes of nuttiness. If you like all of these elements, the best substitute for you would be another spirit with a similar alcohol content, like Kirsch. 

Consistency

Consistency may be another thing to take into consideration when looking for a maraschino liqueur replacement. For example, having an alcohol-free alternative can be great in many cases, but cherry extract has a thicker texture. 

Alcohol Level

In any case, you’ll probably need to know exactly how much alcohol you’re consuming. The ABV (alcohol by volume) of Luxardo is about 32%, as it is a spirit, but the ABV of port wine is only 16-20%. And of course, with cherry syrup or extract there is no alcohol involved.

Color

If you are particular about the aesthetic of your end result, color may be something you worry about. Maraschino liqueur is pretty clear, so for something to match that color, go for Kirsch.

Availability And Price

A bottle of Luxardo is around $30. This isn’t too bad, and most of these replacements don’t stray too far from that price point. For the cheapest option, opt for Port Wine. Cherry syrup and extract are also inexpensive but they are missing alcohol, which may be a key ingredient.

Those two are also one of the most abundant, but you are still likely to be able to find one of these substitutes at the store. Absolut cherry vodka, for example, is not difficult to track down in the United States.

Related Questions

What type of alcohol is maraschino?

Cherry liquor is its own type of alcohol, made by fermenting cherries. Fermented cherries are used in all maraschino alcohols, but cherry-flavored alcohols are likely to be artificially flavored and not made from real, aged cherries.

Does maraschino liqueur need to be refrigerated?

After opening, it is a good idea to refrigerate maraschino liqueur. Its flavor can go flat if it is left opened and at room temperature for too long. There is also a chance that it could become moldy, so stay on the safe side and refrigerate it.

Final Thoughts

Maraschino liqueur is a coveted type of spirit that is made from fermented cherries. The most popular (and oldest) brand is Luxardo. This is not the only brand of maraschino liqueur, or the only drink that will give you a similar taste to the liqueur. If you can’t find any, there are plenty of suitable replacements.