A Mixologist's Top Cherry Choice When Making Cocktails

Whether you're making classic cocktails or a more modern creation, the garnish is vital when it comes to finishing drinks. A fruity flourish adds an aesthetically pleasing touch, of course, but it also brings extra flavors and aromas to the beverage. If you're a fan of using cherries to garnish your old fashioned or Manhattan, maraschino cherries are always a popular choice. But to get the absolute best results every time, we asked a mixologist for some expert tips to take cherry-enhanced cocktails to the next level.

Jessica King, who is co-owner and operator at Lilou, Brother Wolf, and Osteria Stella in Knoxville, Tennessee, is a particular fan of Luxardo cherries in drinks. They may be more expensive, but the gorgeously glossy, all-natural cherries really deliver when it comes to cocktails, King believes. "The time and care put into every jar of these deliciously complex little jewels is worth the added cost in product," she told Food Republic.

Made in Italy, Luxardo maraschino cherries are a luxuriously rich black-red color with a crispy candied texture and an intensely fruity taste offset by a hint of amaretto-like almondy nuttiness. When it comes to cocktails and mixed drinks, the cherries manage to balance sourness and tame the punchiness of spirits such as bourbon, as well as imbuing the drink with their own elegant flavor. Plus, they make an especially beautiful-looking garnish, being much darker than standard bright red cocktail cherries.

Use Luxardo syrup as well as cherries in cocktails

The uniquely rich depth of flavor you get from Luxardo is partly thanks to the marasca cherry syrup in which the fruit is soaked. That syrup (which makes up around half the jar) is just as valuable as the cherries themselves when it comes to cocktails. Mixologist Jessica King described the syrup as "liquid gold" and stated it has "a multitude of applications." Try using cherry syrup as a substitute for simple syrup in a whiskey sour as well as other bourbon-based cocktails to add balance and sweetness as well as an appealing infusion of color. Garnishing with cherries will intensify the taste and add a bite of texture.

It's worth experimenting beyond whiskey, too. "The syrup and cherries both are perfect for Manhattans, Aviations, and a handful of signature cocktails at Brother Wolf, including our PB&J Negroni made with peanut-washed Plantation Dark Rum, Fords Sloe Gin, and Byrrh," King advised. If you want to put a sour cherry spin on cocktails, add a quarter teaspoon of citric acid to a teaspoon of the juice. It works perfectly with an Americano or Negroni.

If you have any leftover cherries or syrup, they can elevate sweet foods, too. "We reuse the syrup in a number of Italian desserts that we serve at our restaurant, Osteria Stella," King noted. Try it simply drizzled over ice cream for a sophisticated treat, or spoon cherries and their juice over a creamy, just-set panna cotta.