Maraschino (1915) BY J. G. RILEY AND A. L. SULLIVAN

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[This is pretty much the definitive paper on Maraschino. I found it when encountering a description of Maraschino I did not agree with that implied that the cherries were never fermented but rather infused into neutral spirits. As described here, the cherries are fermented but the fermentation is arrested and stabilized with additional alcohol before distillation. This does dilute the aroma and is not the same as my Distiller’s Workbook recipe that produces a maraschino liqueur from sugared kirschwasser blended with a sugared clear amaretto distillate. Something else unique to this paper is that the benzaldehyde aroma is not as significant to genuine Dalmatian maraschino as I thought, but other cultures did interpret things differently. Riley does invoke Joseph Konig who I’ve covered before and I feel like I’ve seen Riley’s name in other bibliographies. (This FDA document might interest Camper English). And if anyone really wants, from that chart I can extrapolate from the SG & %alc the sugar contents.

One of the other very interesting ideas here is that the leaves are very important to the flavor which is something I hadn’t read before. Joseph Merory has mentioned that aroma can be extracted from cherry bark, but he did not mention the leaves.

There is another great secret at the end of the article, and most of you will breeze by it, and I’m not going to tell you about it until I have time to play with it.]

BY J. G. RILEY AND A. L. SULLIVAN. (Bureau of Chemistry
Food and Drug Inspection Laboratory, Boston, Mass.)

The world-famed cordial, maraschino, was first manufactured commercially early in the eighteenth century in Zara, Dalmatia, from the marasca cherry, a small variety of the European wild cherry native to the Dalmatian mountains. The manufacture of this cordial has continued to the present day and large quantities of maraschino are still shipped from Dalmatia. The superior excellence of maraschino led to the manufacture of similar cordials in the countries of Italy, France, Holland, and America.

The purpose of this paper is to set forth analyses of ten samples of genuine maraschino, representing the products of six manufacturers, obtained through the courtesy of the American Consul at Trieste, Austria, and Mr. Nicolo Luxardo. Analyses of commercial samples of maraschino manufactured in Holland, France, and the United States are also tabulated.


In Dalmatia during the month of June, marasca cherries are gathered and shipped to Zara. For the manufacture of the best grade maraschino the cherries are pitted, crushed, and allowed to ferment for 4 or 5 days with a small quantity of leaves from the marasca cherry tree; from 10 to 15 per cent pure alcohol is then added to arrest fermentation and to prevent the development of wild yeasts and bacteria. One of the objects of adding alcohol to the fermented cherries is to enable the manufacturer to distill the product at his leisure throughout the year. If the fermented cherries are allowed to stand any length of time there is danger of serious deterioration in the flavor and aroma of the product, especially when alcohol has not been added. The fermented cherries do not yield sufficient alcohol for proper preservation of the mass.

Simple pot stills are used exclusively in the distillation of maraschino spirit and these in most cases are heated by direct fire, although at the present time the use of stills heated by steam coils is being introduced. The type of the still, however, remains practically the same as the original pot still. The first and last portions of the distillate are rejected for the best grades of maraschino, and a portion of a distillate coming over at about 140 proof collected. The strong alcoholic distillate is stored either in glass-lined barrels or cisterns, or in barrels which have been treated so that the spirit will not extract any color from them. The aim of the manufacturer is to age the distillate when possible for from two to three years. The maraschino cordial as found on the market is made by diluting a certain amount of the strong maraschino spirit with sirup. There is some question as to whether any flavoring materials other than the cherries and leaves are used. The best manufacturers claim to use no artificial flavor. Lower grades of maraschino liqueur are produced from cherries which are more or less unsound and in some cases the pits are not removed so that the distillate may show appreciable traces of hydrocyanic acid. It is claimed by the manufacturers of the genuine Dalmatian maraschino that the best product is made from the wild marasca cherry. If the cherry is transplanted to other localities and countries and cultivated it will not yield upon distillation a product having the flavor of the original fruit.

In France so-called maraschino is made by various methods, which may briefly be classified under three heads:
(1) The cherries are crushed and allowed to undergo alcoholic fermentation in the presence of a certain amount of the cherry leaves. After the fermentation the product is distilled and either a very strong spirit known as marasca spirit containing 40 to 50 per cent alcohol collected, or the fermented cherries are distilled in such a manner that a dilute spirit, 8 to 15 per cent alcohol strength, is obtained. This is called eau de marasque or marasca water.
(2) A mixture of black cherries, raspberries, or other fruit and cherry leaves, with a small amount of peach kernels and iris is fermented and distilled and a strong distillate obtained which is used for the manufacture of the cordial.
(3) Essences of peach kernels, orange flowers, jasmine, and vanilla are mixed with pure alcohol and an artificial spirit obtained which is later made into a cordial.

The method described under (1) is generally similar to that followed in Dalmatia. It is claimed that the cherries used are of the same variety as the original marasca cherries and that these cherries grow in Italy, Greece, and France as well as in Dalmatia. From information obtained from various sources it appears that it is well recognized in France that the marasca spirit or marasca water obtained from the native wild cherry is distinctly inferior in flavoring strength and quality to that produced in Dalmatia. Information from similar sources makes it evident that genuine marasca distillate from Dalmatia is often claimed to be used by French manufacturers.

In Holland so-called maraschino has been manufactured for many years; the following statements were made by a Dutch manufacturer:

“In the trade, the term ‘Maraschino’ means a liqueur produced by the distillation of the kernel of stone fruit, generically the Prunus acidus; it may be simply the cherry, or the May Cherry, the black cherry, Morello, or Marasque. It is said that this general variety of cherry originated in the eastern and southern countries of Europe where the Marasque kind has predominated.
“It is believed that in the beginning, over a century ago, the Marasque was the sole or chief variety of cherry from which Maraschino was made. But in course of time, it is related, to suit the public taste, this liqueur was distilled by producers all over Europe, from other varieties of the cherry as well as the Marasque—sometimes blending Marasque and other kinds, sometimes using no Marasque whatever. Sometimes, also, other substances were added, as flavoring, to please the consumer. All this time the liqueur was called Maraschino, and thus this became a generic term, without specific reference to the Marasque or Marasca cherry.
“At the present time, as appears from the best information obtainable, no maker of Maraschino in this country uses cherries brought from Dalmatia, but the makers do use local or other varieties as near like them as possible. For instance, the X firm inform me that they use cherries grown in this country from real Marasca sprouts which they import and plant here.
“The member of the firm of X says that the flavor of his Maraschino is reenforced by other substances * * * these substances are a trade secret which he could not divulge.”

The following table gives the analysis of ten samples of genuine Dalmatian maraschino, nine samples of the French product, four samples of the Dutch product, and three of the American; also a composite analysis of Kirschwasser taken from König, volume 1, page 1514.

Description of Samples Analyzed.

2216-K to 2221-K. Characteristic flavor and aroma of true maraschino. Slight suggestion of Kirsch.
2222-K. Weak flavored, no maraschino flavor; very little, if any, cherry distillate; test for hydrocyanic acid not regarded as conclusive.
2223-K. Cherry kernel flavor; benzaldehyde odor noticeable on diluted sample.
2227-K and S. F. 3249. Flavor very weak, possibly derived from wild cherries.
NY. 38512. Nearly all spirit, with a slight flavor of maraschino.
NY. 38513. Spirits flavored (rose and syringa suspected); consular report shows that in district where sample was made alcohol and artificial flavors are used with either Zara marasca water, or same from Grasse district, France.
NY. 38752. Weak flavored, may contain a small amount of maraschino.
NY. 39752. Does not have flavor of maraschino; may contain a cherry distillate; benzaldehyde suspected by odor and taste; manufacturer admitted later that sample was not prepared from marasca cherries.
2224-K and NY. 26099. Perfumed odor rose present.
2225-K and NY. 26047. Artificial flavor present; no maraschino flavor; see description of Dutch maraschino.
2226-K. No maraschino flavor; benzaldehyde suspected by odor and taste; made from cherries, pits, alcohol, etc.
3550-H. No flavor of maraschino.
1687-K. Has maraschino flavor; use of imported marasca distillate suspected.

The analysis of genuine Dalmatian maraschino shows it to be an alcoholic cordial containing from 30 to 44 per cent of alcohol, and 26 to 36 percent of solids (sugar). The analysis of the distillates show a comparatively small amount of congenerics. Judging from these analyses it is evident that either the maraschino spirit is very highly rectified or it contains added neutral spirit. This conclusion is strengthened by comparing the analyses of maraschino with Kirschwasser, which is a true cherry distillate. In the case of Kirschwasser the total congenerics average about 200, whereas in the case of maraschino they average 80. It is a well-known fact that pure alcohol is used in the manufacture of maraschino and the low amount of congenerics is explained by this fact. Under the circumstances there is no evidence of the use of rectifying columns in the process of distillation. The analyses show further that maraschino contains very small amounts of benzaldehyde, from traces up to five parts per hundred thousand per 100 proof. Hydrocyanic acid was found present in very small amounts in some of the genuine samples. There is nothing particularly characteristic about the chemical analysis of maraschino which would enable one to judge from the analysis alone whether a given sample is pure.

The most striking feature about the Dalmatian maraschino is the flavor, which can not be measured by a chemical analysis. The peculiar fragrance and delicacy of flavor of genuine maraschino is distinctly different from that of the French, Dutch, and other products. The analyst must draw his conclusions largely from the aroma and taste of the product. The presence of traces of benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid indicates a cherry distillate.

Samples marked A, B and C under Dalmatian maraschino are interesting. They were made by the same concern. A is the cheapest product and C is the highest priced. The amount of congenerics in A is 30.3 and in C, 110.8. It is apparent from the analysis that C contains a greater proportion of true marasca distillate than A. Sample 2220-K and Sample B immediately under that number were made by the same concern. The first sample was obtained in 1911 and the second sample in 1912. Sample 2220-K apparently has more of the true marasca distillate than the latter sample.

Examination of French maraschino shows chemical results quite similar to those obtained on the Dalmatian product. Two of the samples, however, contained much larger amounts of benzaldehyde. None of the samples had the characteristic strength and delicacy of flavor of the genuine maraschino. While it is probable that several of them were made from cherry distillates they do not have the strength and delicate flavor of the Dalmatian product. If a distillate made from French cherries was used it is very evident that this product does not have the quality of the Dalmatian product. Another striking feature about the French samples as a whole is that they are weak flavored, which is probably due to the use of a large percentage of neutral alcohol.

Four samples of Dutch products were examined, representing two different manufacturers. They contain appreciable amounts of benzaldehyde, 16 to 18 parts per 100,000 proof. The flavor is entirely different from that of the Dalmatian product. The presence of benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid indicate that the products may have been prepared from cherries. The somewhat excessive amount of benzaldehyde may be accounted for by the use of almond kernels, cherry stones, or some other product yielding benzaldehyde. It is possible that the cherrystones were crushed in the manufacture of the cordials. The four samples undoubtedly were prepared from a fermented product.

The three samples of American manufacture were apparently prepared from cherries and two of them contain appreciable amounts of benzaldehyde, considerably more than is found in the Dalmatian product. Sample 1687-K seems to have the genuine flavor of maraschino, although no particularly strong.


Dalmatian maraschino as prepared from the marasca cherry has a delicate fragrance and aroma and a distinctive flavor which is different from products prepared from other varieties of cherries and fruits. Such maraschino may contain traces of benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid. The amount of congenerics, that is, the sum of acids, ether, aldehydes, furfural and fusel oil is low, indicating the use of alcohol in the manufacture of the product.

Dalmatian maraschino is not made solely from straight cherry distillate, but contains added spirit. The French, Dutch, and American products generally have an entirely different flavor from the Dalmatian product. In some cases artificial flavoring substances are present. In cases where the flavor has a resemblance to the genuine Dalmatian product the cordial is very weak flavored, that is, does not contain an appreciable amount of genuine maraschino distillate used in its manufacture.

The methods of analysis used were similar to the official methods for the analysis of distilled spirits. Owing to the high sugar content of maraschino it was necessary to dilute the same with water before distilling; 400 cc. was diluted with 200 cc. of water and 500 cc. of distillate was collected. This spirit was analyzed for acids, esters, etc. Benzaldehyde was determined by the Dennis and Dunbar method. Hydrocyanic acid was tested for by the guaiac copper and the sulphocyanate test, as described in Autenrieth.

Genuine maraschino when diluted with water and saturated with sodium bisulphite and extracted with ether imparts its original odor to the ether. If the ether is carefully evaporated at a low heat the aroma of the original product can be detected. This test is useful where the benzaldehyde flavor is strong, as the sodium bisulphite fixes the benzaldehyde and allows the removal of other flavors by the means of ether.

[Let’s finish with a reference to a 19th century text:
Maraschino is also made from the cherry, much in the same manner as kirschwasser. The kind of cherry preferred for this purpose is a small acid fruit, called marasca, which abounds in the north of Italy, at Trieste, and in Dalmatia. That of Zara, in Dalmatia, is considered the best. All the fruit employed in making the Dalmatian maraschino is cultivated within 20 miles of this city, at the foot of the mountain Clyssa, between Spalatro and Almissa, on the side of a hill planted with vines. The chief difference between the preparation of this liqueur and kirschwasser consists in mixing the mass of bruised cherries with honey; and honey or fine sugar is added to the spirit after it is distilled. The genuine maraschino is as difficult to be met with as genuine Tokay; the greater part of that which is sold as such, being nothing more than kirschwasser mixed with water and honey, or water and sugar. The marasca cherry has been cultivated in France with a view to the manufacture of this liqueur in that country; and it has been said that it may be made just as good from the common wild black cherry. It is also said, that, in Dalmatia, the leaves of the tree are made use of in order to give the peculiar aroma which is so much esteemed in the maraschino; and that this perfume may be increased to any extent desired, by mixing the leaves of Cerasus Mahaleb, the perfumed cherry, with the fruit of the marasca, or even the common gean, before distillation.]

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