Maraschino cherries give me the creeps. They might look cute as a garnish in cocktails and sundaes, but I won’t touch the radioactive-red orbs. At Steuben’s, though, I don’t have to worry about the insincere fruit tainting my drink or dessert, because bar manager Sean Kenyon imports real maraschinos from Italy.

The result is a cherry that’s four times more expensive and worthy of being a centerpiece instead of an embellishment. Gone are the artificial color and synthetic flavor. These cherries actually look and taste as they appear: dense, ripe summer fruit.

So why are the neon counterparts so prevalent? As Kenyon tells it, we have Prohibition to thank. An inexpensive Americanized version (cherries that are bathed in salt solution, soaked in sweetener, and washed in red coloring) cropped up after the United States banned the import of maraschinos, largely because they contained alcohol.

Real maraschinos are made from marascas–a small black cherry native to Croatia–that are brined and then macerated in the liquor distilled from the pulp, skin, and pits, before being stored in simple syrup and their own juices.

Best way to try these gems is in a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, or Steuben’s decadent maraschino cherry-vanilla milkshake.

523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.