Brandied Cherries vs Maraschino: Uncovering the Key Differences

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 12 min.
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Brandied cherries and maraschino cherries are popular for garnishing and enhancing the flavour of cocktails, desserts, and other culinary creations. While they may seem similar at first glance, these two cherries have distinct differences in origin, manufacturing process, flavour profiles, and uses.

Key Takeaways

  • Brandied cherries and maraschino cherries differ in origin, manufacturing process, and flavour profiles.
  • A deeper taste characterizes brandied cherries, while maraschino cherries are known for their sweetness and bright colour.
  • Each cherry type’s distinct flavours and uses suit different culinary applications.

Brandied cherries are made by soaking cherries in brandy or a similar spirit, often combined with sugar and spices, to infuse them with flavour and preserve their freshness. In contrast, maraschino cherries are typically bleached, soaked in thick sugar syrup and dyed a bright red or green.

The name “maraschino” traces its origin to marasca cherries, preserved in maraschino liqueur, but contemporary maraschino cherries found in supermarkets often do not contain any alcohol.

These differences in cherries’ manufacturing process result in distinct flavour profiles for each cherry type. Brandied cherries are often rich, complex, and boozy, while maraschino cherries taste sweeter and more uniform. Consequently, brandied cherries are usually favoured for sophisticated cocktails and gourmet desserts. In contrast, maraschino cherries are more commonly employed as a bright, cheerful garnish or ingredient in more casual culinary settings.

Buyers Guide

If you’re in a rush, here are some popular brands of maraschino and brandied cherries that have received good reviews on Amazon.

Collins Stemless Maraschino Cherries, 10oz

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co, Cherries Bourbon Barrel Aged

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Filthy Black Amarena Cocktail Cherries

ICEMANS THUNDER Maraschino Cherries

Tillen Farms Bourbon Bada Bing Cherries

Click here for information on these products.

If you’re still reading, let’s get into the origin story, then.

History and Origin

Brandied Cherries

Brandied cherries, as the name implies, are preserved in a mixture of brandy and sugar syrup. The tradition of preserving cherries in alcohol goes back centuries. The sweet-spirit combination was often used to preserve seasonal fruits for consumption throughout the year. As cherry trees were abundant throughout Europe, cherries frequently found their way into these ancient preservation methods.

Making brandied cherries typically involves simmering cherries in a sugar syrup with spices and then adding brandy. This mixture is kept for at least a few weeks to allow the flavours to meld together. The result is the best cocktail cherries, a rich, flavorful treat often used in cocktails, desserts, or as a delicious accompaniment to cheese plates.

Maraschino Cherries

The history of maraschino cherries can be traced back to the 16th century. Originating from the marasca cherry found in Croatia, maraschino cherries were created by preserving cherries in maraschino liqueur. Dominican monks are said to have first distilled this wild marasca cherry to produce the maraschino liqueur.

Initially, maraschino cherries were a luxury reserved for royalty and the wealthy due to the limited supply of marasca cherries. Over time, the process of making maraschino cherries evolved.

Nowadays, maraschino cherries are made by soaking cherries in a brine solution mixed with high fructose corn syrup and red dye. The soaking process gives them their characteristic overly sweet, almond flavour profile, differentiating them from their candied counterparts.

Brandied Cherries Maraschino Cherries Origin Europe Croatia (Marasca Cherry) Preservation Brandy and sugar syrup Maraschino liqueur, brine solution, and HFCS Uses Cocktails, desserts, cheese plates Cocktails, sundaes, garnishes Flavor Rich, fruity, slightly spiced Almond-like, sweet, and artificial.

Many Americans prefer big, sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann and Rainier varieties, which thrive in the Pacific Northwest.

In summary, brandied and maraschino cherries have long histories and involve preserving cherries in syrup for extended periods. Their differences lie in preserving liquid and the resulting flavour profiles. Brandied cherries feature a rich, fruity taste, whereas maraschino cherries have a sweeter, almond-like flavour.

Manufacturing Process

Preparation of Brandied Cherries

Making brandied cherries starts with soaking fresh or frozen cherries in a sugar syrup mixture to preserve them. This syrup typically contains sugar and water in a predetermined ratio.

Subsequently, the cherries are soaked in brandy or other spirits until they absorb the desired flavour. Brandied cherries retain their natural colour and fruity taste, enhanced by the spirit in which they are soaked.

Production of Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino cherries, on the other hand, undergo a more intensive manufacturing process. The cherries, typically from Bing or Royal Anne varieties, are first soaked in a brine solution made of sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride to bleach completely white. They are then soaked in a suspension of food colouring (usually FD&C Red 40), sugar syrup, and artificial flavouring—including almond extract—to achieve their distinct bright red colour and unique taste.

How to Make Your Own Brandied Cherries

Making brandied cherries at home is simple and allows for customizing the flavour to your preferred taste. Follow these steps:

  1. Select fresh cherries: Choose ripe, fresh cherries free of cracks or blemishes. Wash and pit them.
  2. Prepare the syrup: Combine equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan, heat until sugar dissolves, then allow the mixture to cool.
  3. Soak the cherries: Add them to a jar and pour the cooled syrup over them until fully submerged.
  4. Add the spirit: Measure the desired brandy or other spirits and pour them into the jar.
  5. Seal and store: Close the jar tightly with a lid and store in a cool, dark place for at least three weeks, allowing the cherries to absorb the flavours of the syrup and spirit.

Remember that homemade brandied cherries may not have the same shelf life as the ones you picked up Amazon or Trader Joe’s, so consume them within a few months and always refrigerate after opening the other jarred cherries.

Flavor Profiles

Taste of Brandied Cherries

Regarding brandied cherries, it’s important to note that their flavour is derived from the natural cherry flavour and the maraschino liqueur they are preserved in. The taste tends to be richer and more complex than maraschino cherries. The maraschino liqueur imparts a subtle cherry flavour and a hint of almond, giving the fruit a unique and sophisticated taste. The cherries are usually of higher quality and retain a pleasing firmness and texture.

The flavour of Maraschino Cherries

Comparatively, maraschino cherries are soaked in a brine solution mixed with high fructose corn syrup and red dye before being packed in jars filled with more liquid. The almond flavour profile in maraschino cherries comes from almond extract, while green maraschinos are flavoured with peppermint.

Maraschino cherries have a uniformly sweet taste, but they often lack the depth and complexity of brandied cherries. Unfortunately, due to their preservation method, maraschino cherries tend to be of lower quality and have a softer, less dense texture than brandied cherries.

Why Should You Use Brandied Cherries in Your Cocktail?

Using brandied cherries in cocktails can elevate the overall experience for several reasons:

  1. Flavour enhancement: Brandied cherries offer a richer, more refined taste profile thanks to the maraschino liqueur. This added depth of flavour can complement and enhance the other ingredients in your cocktail.
  2. Aesthetic appeal: With their natural colour and firm texture, brandied cherries look more enticing in a cocktail. They also create a more elegant and sophisticated appearance.
  3. Culinary experience: Opting for brandied cherries showcases an appreciation for quality ingredients, making your craft cocktails creation a more memorable and enjoyable experience for you and your guests.

By choosing to use brandied cherries in your cocktails, you can create a more refined and delicious drink that differentiates itself from those made with the more commonplace maraschino cherries.

These are used in many well-known cocktails, from Tom Collins to Manhattans, that bartenders will make a lot during their careers.

Culinary Uses

Brandied Cherries in Recipes

Brandied cherries have been soaked in brandy or another type of alcoholic liquid. They are known for their deep, complex flavor profile, making them a popular ingredient in various recipes. Some popular uses for brandied cherries include:

  • Cocktails: Brandied cherries make an excellent garnish and flavour enhancer for many classic cocktails.
  • Desserts: Incorporate brandied cherries in cakes, pies, and tarts to add a sophisticated touch to your sweet treats.
  • Sauces and glazes: These cherries create flavorful reductions for meats, such as roasted pork or duck dishes.

Maraschino Cherries in Cuisine

Maraschino cherries are soaked in a brine solution mixed with high fructose corn syrup and red dye, giving them an almond flavour profile and a bright red colour. They are a versatile ingredient and can be used in various culinary applications, such as:

  • Baking: Maraschino cherries are a great addition to cakes, cookies, and other baked goods due to their sweet taste and vibrant colour.
  • Cocktails: Similar to brandied cherries, maraschino cherries are also popular as a garnish for many cocktails, adding a delightful touch of sweetness.
  • Ice cream toppings and sauces: Their bright colour and unique flavour make maraschino cherries popular for ice cream sundaes and other dessert toppings.

In conclusion proper cherry, brandied cherry and maraschino cherries have their place in the culinary world. Their unique flavours and uses make them valuable to various dishes and recipes. While brandied cherries offer a richer taste, maraschino cherries provide a sweet and colourful touch to many culinary creations.

Nutritional Comparison

There are some notable differences to consider when comparing the nutritional values of brandied cherries and maraschino cherries.

Brandied cherries are cherries that have been soaked in brandy, a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented fruit juice, typically grapes. While primarily used for flavouring, the brandy also acts as a preservative. On the other hand, maraschino cherries are preserved in sugar syrup and often contain artificial colours and flavours. Due to the different preservation methods, these cherries display distinct nutritional profiles.

Regarding macronutrients, maraschino cherries are higher in carbohydrates, primarily from added sugars during preservation. On the other hand, brandied cherries have a lower carbohydrate content. It is also essential to note that the macronutrient differences result from the preservation techniques rather than the cherries themselves.

Consider the following nutrient comparison:

NutrientBrandied CherriesMaraschino Cherries
Vitamin A10% DV1% DV
Vitamin C1% DV0% DV
Note: Values are approximate and may vary depending on the specific products used.

Furthermore, these cherries’ vitamin and mineral content differ due to the different preservation techniques. Brandied cherries tend to retain more natural nutrients, such as Vitamin A. Contrastingly, maraschino cherries exhibit a lower vitamin and mineral content, likely diluted by the sugar syrup used in the preservation process.

In conclusion, when comparing brandied and maraschino cherries nutritionally, there are significant differences primarily driven by the preservation techniques. Both offer unique flavours and culinary applications, but it is vital to consider the variations in nutritional content when making dietary choices.

Buyers Guide

Here, we’ll compare the two and share our top picks for Amazon’s best brandied and maraschino cherries. Whether you’re a seasoned mixologist or just starting, we’ve covered you with the best cherries options for every taste and budget.

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Luxardo, Gourmet Cocktail Maraschino Cherries 400G Jar

If you’re looking for a high-quality cherry to elevate the natural flavour in your cocktails or desserts, Luxardo Maraschino Cherries are worth considering.


  • These cherries are made from fresh sour marasca cherries candied and steeped in cherry juice and sugar syrup. This results in a rich, decadent flavour far superior to the neon-coloured maraschino cherries you may be used to.
  • Luxardo cherries are gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, and kosher, making them versatile for various dietary needs.
  • These cherries are essential for modern and classic cocktails and can also be used as a dessert topping or a dressing for holiday meats.


  • Luxardo cherries are more expensive than other brands of maraschino cherries, so they may not be the best choice if you’re on a tight budget.
  • Some people may find that the flavour of Luxardo cherries is too strong or overpowering, especially if they’re not used to the rich taste of sour marasca cherries.
  • The 14.1 oz jar may not be large enough for frequent cocktail or dessert use, so you may need to purchase multiple jars.

Collins Stemless Maraschino Cherries, 10oz

Collins Stemless Maraschino Cherries, Garnish for Cocktails, Desserts, Manhattans, and Old Fashioned, Gourmet Snacking Cherries for Home and Bar, 10oz

If you’re looking for a gourmet jar of Royal Anne Cherries without stem, Collins Stemless Maraschino Cherries might be the perfect fit. These cherries are primarily used to enhance any spirit drink, and they are frequently enjoyed alongside cheese boards at social gatherings.


  • The stemless cherries are perfect for those looking to make authentic cocktails.
  • The stemless cherries elevate the authenticity and taste of any classic cocktail.
  • These cherries are delicious on their own, especially for those with a sweet tooth.


  • The seal on the lid had released, and about half of the cherry liquid had leaked into the box.
  • The cherries are flavoured with maraschino, which might not be everyone’s preference.
  • The cherries are somewhat small.

ICEMANS THUNDER Maraschino Cherries with Stems

Maraschino Cherries with Stems, 74 Ounce Jar - Gift Box/Snack Pack

If you want to add a sweet touch to your favourite desserts or cocktails, the ICEMANS THUNDER Maraschino Cherries with Stems may be a great option.


  • The 74-ounce container provides a great value for the price.
  • The cherries are carefully packaged to ensure they arrive in good condition.
  • The expiration dates range from 12-24 months out, ensuring you have plenty of time to use them.


  • Some customers have mentioned that the price has gone up quite a bit.
  • The cherries may be a little pricey for some buyers.
  • The cherries may not be as flavorful as other brands.

Tillen Farms Bourbon Bada Bing Cherries

Tillen Farms Gourmet Bourbon Bada Bing Cherries, Pitted & Stem-On, Certified Non-GMO, Simply Delicious, 13.5oz

We highly recommend purchasing Tillen Farms Bourbon Bada Bing Cherries if you want a delicious, boozy bite to add to your cocktails.


  • These cherries are free from artificial dyes and corn syrup, making them a healthier option.
  • The splash of real bourbon adds a warm, spicy flavour to the cherries, making them perfect for use in various cocktails.
  • The cherries pair well with Stonewall Kitchen Sangria Mixer, providing a delicious and refreshing drink.


  • The price of the cherries is slightly higher than other cocktail garnishes.
  • Some users may find the cherries to be too boozy for their taste.
  • The jar contains a small number of cherries, which may not be enough for frequent use.

Filthy Black Amarena Cocktail Cherries

Filthy Black Amarena Cocktail Cherries, 11 Oz Jar, 45 Cherries

If you’re looking for a premium cocktail with cherry flavour to elevate your drinks, Filthy Food’s Black Amarena Cocktail Cherries are worth considering.


  • These cherries are slow-cooked in copper pots, providing a rich and complex flavour with a sweet front and tart finish.
  • The cherries come in a sleek glass jar that looks great on any bar cart.
  • Filthy Food’s Black Amarena Cocktail Cherries are non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free.


  • At around $20 for an 11oz jar, these cherries are pricier than other options on the market.
  • Some reviewers have had issues with the jar’s lid breaking or leaking during shipping.
  • While the cherries are versatile and can be used in various cocktails, they have a distinct flavour that may not be to everyone’s liking.

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co, Cherries Bourbon Barrel Aged

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co, Cherries Bourbon Barrel Aged, 13.5 Fl Oz | Handcrafted | Tart Oregon Cherries | Essential Cocktail Ingredient | Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Whiskey | Gourmet

If you’re looking for a high-quality cocktail cherry, the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co, Cherries Bourbon Barrel Aged is an excellent option.


  • Tart Oregon cherries preserved in Kentucky Bourbon to make the perfect cocktail cherry.
  • It is an essential cocktail ingredient and the perfect garnish for an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, but it can also be used to finish off an ice cream sundae or cheese plate.
  • It’s so good you can eat them straight out of the jar!


  • It is expensive compared to other cocktail cherries available in the market.
  • The product may contain pits.
  • The taste may be too tart for some.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do Amarena cherries compare to brandied cherries in cocktails?

Amarena cherries are Italian cherries cooked in a rich, syrupy sauce, making them a sweet, slightly tart alternative to maraschino and brandied cherries. Their bold, complex flavour and texture pair well with cocktails, especially those with whiskey or bourbon, while their dark colour adds visual appeal.
Many bartenders use Amarena cherries as an alternative to brandied and maraschino cherries in cocktails.

Which type of cherry is preferable for an Old Fashioned, brandied or maraschino?

In an Old Fashioned cocktail, brandied cherries are often preferred due to their rich, complex flavour, which complements the whiskey and adds a pleasant counterbalance to the slightly bitter taste of the cocktail.
However, maraschino cherries can also be used, resulting in a sweeter final product that balances the drink’s inherent bitterness. The choice ultimately depends on individual taste preferences.

Can maraschino liqueur be used as a substitute for the liquid in brandied cherries?

Maraschino liqueur, made from Marasca cherries and flavoured with their crushed pits for a distinct almond taste, can be used as a substitute for the liquid in brandied cherries, albeit with some differences.
While maraschino liqueur will impart some unique almond notes, it lacks the warmth and complexity of brandy. This substitution will produce a cherry that tastes similar to maraschino cherries but with a mildly boozy and sophisticated edge.

What are the primary taste and texture differences between Filthy and Luxardo maraschino cherries?

Filthy maraschino cherries maintain a firmer texture and a milder taste than Luxardo cherries, which are widely praised for their rich, complex flavour profile and soft, almost candied texture. Luxardo creating maraschino cherries are made using Marasca cherries and soaked in Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, giving them a luxurious and decadent taste.
In contrast, Filthy cherries undergo a different process, leading to a slightly tamer flavour and firmer texture, which some drinkers find preferable in certain cocktails.