Not that we don’t love a properly garnished Shirley Temple and a Manhattan

By Stacey Ballis
July 28, 2020
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Luxardo cherries are one of those luxuries that become indispensable the moment you start keeping them stocked. Usually the star of your bar cart, these dark, sweet, crisp maraschino cherries packed in thick syrup are the platonic ideal of what a cocktail cherry should be. I often gift small jars as host gifts (Amazon sells them in a handy three-pack) when attending dinner parties and have been known to give special pals the pro-size 106-ounce can for big birthdays or housewarming presents.

Perhaps best known as the uniquely and deliciously qualified garnishment of the Shirley Temple “cocktail” and floating insouciantly at the bottom of your Manhattan, these gems are good for so much more. And at the robust (but totally worth-it) cost of $17-20 per 14-ounce jar, they can—and should—be looked at as an ingredient in your cooking worth exploring. Think of them like a high-quality chocolate or vanilla. You don’t use them for everything, but certain recipes really deserve the good stuff.

Here are my three favorite ways to use Luxardo cherries that have nothing to do with cocktails:

Courtesy Luxardo

1. Save the syrup!

That sticky claret goo that surrounds the fruit in your jar is more than just a preservative. It is a deeply flavored treat that should never go to waste! You can sub it in for any thick sticky sweet ingredient in your cooking, from maple syrup to honey, date syrup to pomegranate molasses. I have also used it as a soak on cake layers by mixing it 1:1 with either a fortified wine like Madeira or port, or with a tart cherry juice. Your Black Forest gâteau was never so moist and delicious. You can also use this dilution in your favorite poke cake recipe. A simple glaze for pound cakes or Bundts is just the syrup, a squeeze of lemon juice, and enough confectioners’ sugar to get your preferred texture.

2. Take your cherry jam or pie filling to the next level!

Swapping out even a quarter cup of halved or chopped Luxardos for fresh or frozen cherries in your next batch of jam or cherry pie will give you a really special flavor boost that will add some rounded depth and complexity.

3. Use them in savory sauces for meat!

While duck à l’orange is famous, duck in cherry sauce is equally classic and for the same reason. Savory sauces made slightly sweet with fruit are great enhancers of rich meats like duck, pork, or lamb. Add some of the syrup and some sliced cherries to everything from your homemade barbecue sauce to gravy and your diners will thank you. They go particularly well with sauces that feature ingredients like caramelized onion, thyme, sage, shallot, port, sherry, red wine, demiglace, and butter. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

And come to think of it, I will take a Manhattan. Please pass the cherries.