The strangest thing has happened. Just a day or two after I decided to get this blog rolling and use it as my bully pulpit from which to rant and rave about the LCBO and its counterparts in other provinces and how they are conspiring to keep us from having the necessary ingredients to flourish in the cocktailosphere, BOOM! I enter the word “maraschino” in the search box on the LCBO website (which I have been doing wistfully, over and over, with the same disappointing result for a year now) and lo and behold THEY’VE GOT IT!! They have good old Luxardo Maraschino Originale. Girolamo Luxardo has been making the stuff over in Italia since 1821, so it’s about bloody time.
Maraschino is a funny old liqueur which is actually fermented from marasca cherries and their crushed pits, aged in ashwood vats and sweetened (in the olden days, with honey). It is to cherries what triple sec is to oranges, both equally indispensable ingredients in so many old time cocktails. The Cocktail DB has 211 listings for it including such classics as the Aviation, the Martinez (the original Martini), The Mary Pickford, the Seventh Heaven, the Brooklyn, the Quebec and the Canadian Pine. It is also called for in any “improved” cocktail.
I am sure that at one time it was readily available in Canada, back when there were a whole lot fewer liqueurs around, and people liked richer, sweeter and more flavourful cocktails. With the post World War II trend of drying the cocktail out on the one hand (eg. the Vodka Martini) or making it into a sweet, vodka-based, booze-candy-girl-drink on the other, poor old maraschino just fell down the gap in the middle and demand for it dried up completely. Only the cocktail revival has brought it back to Canada, now, apparently, even to Ontario. As something you might want to drink on its own, it suffers from being sickly sweet, slightly almond bitter (from the cherry pits) and has the bouquet of medium-duty moonshine. But in small amounts in cocktails, it blends beautifully with all kinds of liquors, bitters and other ingredients.
So bomb out and grab a bottle of this straw-clad wonder of the cocktailian universe, before the LCBO changes its mind. Oh yeah, the bottle will make your home bar look super official and geeky. Remember, not all stores will have it, so go to the LCBO site to figure out which stores have it, or ask your local store to bring some in for you.
Some better independent liquor stores (in provinces where such things are allowed) carry it such as Vancouver’s Brewery Creek Liquor Store. Ask Gerry.
Interesting side note: it is $33.75 at Brewery Creek and $25.95 in Ontario, which goes to show you what the buying power of the LCBO, the largest booze retailer in the world can do when it want to.
Stay tuned for ANOTHER nearly as fabulous announcement. Think "Tom" Collins.