We were testing from right to left
I tested eight different Maraschinos, 5 from Italy, 2 from Germany and 1 from Croatia. I bought all of these myself and was not sponsored by anybody, so this is a completely unbiased review (well, other than the bias of my personal preferences).
Maraschino di Zugliano
25% vol, Zanin 1895
Zugliano (VI), Veneto
Very flowery, but also quite bitter and unbalanced on the palate. A late lingering finish of bitter almonds and a bouquet that is reminiscent of lilies or an old lady’s perfume. There is also a very late and light astringent feel in the back of the mouth. This would be horrible in an Aviation as it would amplify the Crème de Violet way too much. It might work in cocktails like a Crusta, a Brooklyn or a Prince of Wales (the pineapple variation), but would probably be way too floral in a Last Word or a Martinez. The label says it’s made with a Marasca Cherry Infusion and a Marasca Cherry Distillate. I am not quite sure how the infusion works, but the result is rather underwhelming.
24% vol, G.M.
Sona (VR), Veneto
Very strange bouquet, almost like a faint odor of a public pool in a Spa – so not unpleasant, but still with a whiff of chlorine and bath salts. The flavour is actually quite unremarkable – first and foremost it’s sugary sweet, then you get a hint of lavender and rose petals, followed by a light finish of marzipan and some bitterness and astringency. It doesn’t hang around for long though. The flavour is not too far of the Zugliano, but with the strange bouquet I would only use this in cocktails that need a medicinally small portion of Maraschino – dashes like in the Crusta rather than a whole bar spoon or more…
30% vol, Ciemme Liquori
Gorizia (GO), Friuli Venezia
This producer is located near the Croatian border and the style of the liqueur is indeed similar to the only Maraschino in this field that originates from Croatia. It’s alcoholic on the nose and the tongue, with clear notes of acetone or paint stripper. There is fruit in the background, but the stinging alcohol almost overpowers that aroma. The flavour is straight forward, quite powerful, with some fruit notes and a pretty dry finish. I would definitely give this a try in a Last Word, or even in a Diplomat or Tuxedo No. 2.
32% vol, Maraska
This is a great Maraschino. It’s got a very clean, no-nonsense bouquet, with a prominent marasca cherry note and hints of almond. It’s full bodied, not too sweet, a hint of salt, a pleasant astringent finish and a long lingering toasted almond flavour. This is a great allrounder, I would put that in any cocktail that asks for Maraschino without hesitation. Clear recommendation.
Pour la Gastronomie
25% vol, Girolamo Luxardo
Torreglia (PD), Veneto
You are being hit by the typical Luxardo Maraschino aroma right away – sweet, with notes of gummi bears, or Red Bull. It’s the reason why my bottle of Maraschino ended up right at the back of the shelve and why for a while I avoided all cocktails asking for Maraschino. You need to use this ever so carefully, because the smell and taste is very overpowering. The flavour is actually a little better than the Luxardo from the “classic” taller bottle, but maybe that is because the classic bottle has been sitting on the shelve for so long already. It tastes like a very sweet candy with an undefinable taste of overripe, almost rotten fruit. This should have a big sticker on it, saying “handle with care”.
32% vol, Girolamo Luxardo
Torreglia (PD), Veneto
Just like the other Luxardo, this has a very similar aroma, but with more prominent notes of acetone and rotten fruit. It’s more bitter and “edgy” than the slightly less alcoholic smaller sister, but unfortunately not in a good way. Maybe that’s because it has been sitting in my bar for a while, maybe not. This won’t make it back on the shelve, it’s the drain for whatever is left in the bottle.
Schladerer Schwarzwald Maraschino
32% vol, Alfred Schladerer
Staufen i. Br., Germany
This is the Maraschino that tought me to understand and love cocktails such as the Aviation, the Martinez and the Brooklyn. It’s got a powerful bouquet of cherry, almond and very light floral notes, and you can tell by the aroma already that it is comparably dry and carries a bit of a punch, not unlike the Zadarski. On the palate, you get bitter almonds and a deep marasca cherry flavour that fills the whole mouth, with a long-lasting finish and a good astringency. This has a nice complexity, and the bitter notes work perfectly in drinks like the Aviation or Last Word where it provides extra depth.
30% vol, Alfred Schladerer
Staufen i. Br., Germany
This is a good Maraschino, but it can’t hold up to the Schwarzwald Maraschino. It’s very fruity and sweeter than it’s bigger sister, and just doesn’t have the many layers that the Schwarzwald Maraschino has to offer. It has a very pleasant fruit aroma with hints of rose and lavender, and a balanced flavour profile with a very clean finish and a little almond milk at the back. This will work with most cocktails that need Maraschino, but the Zadarski and Schwarzwald Maraschino are definitely the better choice for an Aviation or Last Word. With a Martinez for instance you have many more options to introduce complexity through the Vermouth, so I would definitely use it there.
The Schladerer Schwarzwald Maraschino wins by the skin of the teeth of a gnad. It’s a very versatile liqueur with great fruit, bitter almond and complexity. This will play well in every cocktail.
SILVER The Maraska Zadarski Maraschino comes in at a very close second. It is quite similar to our winning liqueur but just a little less complex and deep. Still, a great choice and you won’t go wrong with this in any cocktail that asks for Maraschino.
The Schladerer and the Ciemme Maraschino are sharing third place in this tasting. The Schladerer with its simple but effective profile wins over the slightly funky Ciemme, but in mixed drinks the Ciemme actually holds its own very well and can definitely compete with the Schladerer.
I'm also pleased to report that we have been using the Schladerer Schwarzwald Maraschino from Day 1 at NighthawksFFM, so no regrets!