I am a big bourbon fan and the Manhattan is my favorite cocktail. The finishing touch of the Manhattan is the cherry, and it always struck me that your standard Maraschino always added a touch of a Shirley Temple to a Manhattan. Not a good thing. The cocktail revolution of the past few years confirmed that for me. As bars and bartenders started ramping up their offerings, they looked not only at the liquor they were serving but the the other parts of the cocktail like ice, bitters and garnishes. Homemade bitters, cocktail onion and cherries have become essential staples of the best cocktail bars. You don't have to make your own bitters at home, but it is worth it to make your own cherries. It is easy and will will take that Manhattan to a new level.
A quick note about this recipe. This is not trying to recreate the bright red, sickly sweet Maraschinos you are used to. There are recipes out there for that. These cherries are for cocktails, not Shirley Temples and ice cream sundaes. There is no sugar in them so they are more sour than sweet. They are a deep, dark red and they are delicious. Your bourbon will thank you.
Home made Maraschino Cherries:
This recipe is for a pint of cherries but you can easily double it if you buy a quart of cherries (I did).
One pint sour cherries
3/4 cup maraschino liqueur (I used Luxardo, you can use Stock as well or any other brand you can find)
Wash cherries then remove stems and pits.
(This is the most time consuming part. If you don't have a cherry pitter you can use a toothpick. Insert the toothpick in the cherry where the stem was and run it around the pit, then pop it out. It takes a few to get used to but you will get the hang of it.)
Gently warm the maraschino liqueur in a sauce pan over medium heat.
When it begins to simmer turn off the heat and add the cherries. Stir. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature.
Decant the cherries and liquid into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. Done. Easy.
Store in the refrigerator. They will be ready in 2 days but they get better with age. They should last up to a year, or until sour cherry season comes around again.
Add bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters. Enjoy!