After over 200 years of crafting high-end cherry-infused liqueurs, Luxardo has become synonymous with the Maraschino cherry. If you’ve ever ordered a Manhattan, you’ve likely come across the brand’s iconic sweet cherries as the garnish. Or maybe you’ve used its classic Maraschino liqueur to mix up a Last Word or Martinez. Either way, there’s no denying that Luxardo has ingrained itself in modern cocktail culture with a single stone fruit.
In 1817, the brand’s to-be founders Girolamo Luxardo and his wife Maria Canevari moved to Zara, the Venetian capital of Dalmatia (an area on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea that’s now part of Croatia). The town was known for its local liqueur, Rosolio Maraschino. Canevari quickly developed an interest in the spirit and started perfecting her own at-home recipe, which was of such high quality that it gained the attention of local connoisseurs. She and her husband founded the Luxardo distillery in 1821, and the company is still family-owned: It’s currently run by fifth-generation distiller Franco Luxardo, along with help from members of the sixth and seventh generations.
Now that you know the basics, here are 10 things you need to know about Luxardo.
Luxardo’s original Maraschino Liqueur recipe took a while to perfect.
After Girolamo and Canevari founded the distillery, they spent eight years researching and further perfecting their Maraschino liqueur recipe. Their efforts were rewarded when the liqueur received an exclusive acknowledgement from the Emperor of Austria a short time later. The distillery still proudly touts the denomination of “Privilegiata Fabbrica Maraschino Excelsior.”
The brand has used the same recipe for over 200 years.
Luxardo continues to produce its flagship Maraschino liqueur according to Canevari’s original recipe. The process starts with the harvest of the marasca cherries, which are immediately put in an alcoholic infusion in larch wood vats along with leaves and branches from the same trees for up to three years. When the mixture is ready, the liquids and solids are distilled together in traditional copper pot stills. The distillate is then matured in ash wood vats. Finally, simple syrup is added to bring the liqueur to 32 percent ABV.
There’s a deeper meaning behind the dove on every label.
Each bottle of the brand’s Maraschino liqueur has a crest of a dove on it, which is meant to reflect the humble beginnings of the company. When the distillery was first founded, Girolamo would travel to collect orders for Maraschino and send them to his wife for production using a network of carrier pigeons.
The distillery was almost destroyed in World War II.
In 1913, Michelangelo Luxardo, Girolamo’s grandson, built an entirely new, modern, and massive distillery in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to produce more liqueur. This building survived World War I, but was ultimately demolished in World War II by repeated bombings from 1943 to 1944. Many members of the Luxardo family disappeared or were killed by invaders. Only one member of the fourth generation, Giorgio Luxardo, survived and fled to Italy.
Luxardo’s modern legacy can be traced back to one cherry sapling.
Due to these losses, it looked as if the Luxardo brand was going to cease production after over a century of operation. But even when it seemed like the end of the line, Giorgio was determined to carry on the family legacy. He managed to escape the war with just one cherry sapling when he crossed the Adriatic Sea to northeast Italy’s Veneto region. There, he reconnected with a colleague who had saved the Luxardo recipe book, and used these limited resources to rebuild and reestablish the distillery in the small city of Torreglia in 1946. At this new location, Luxardo restored its product line of Italian liqueurs and continued to export the products to markets around the world.
Passengers of the Titanic likely imbibed some Luxardo liqueur.
Luxardo has long been associated with sophisticated cocktails, so it makes sense that the liqueur was served on the luxurious Titanic during its fateful voyage in 1912.
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur can be found in the earliest iterations of many cocktail builds.
Legend has it that when the Manhattan was invented in the late 1800s, a spoonful of syrup from Luxardo Maraschino cherries was swirled into the very first glass of the classic drink. The brand’s liqueur can also be found in the debut recipes for many still-beloved cocktails including the Last Word and the Martinez.
Luxardo was part of the craft cocktail revival in the U.S.
In 2004, Luxardo became a major player in the growing craft cocktail movement thanks to bartenders at NYC’s famed Pegu Club. According to the brand, the establishment’s bartenders took a trip to London just weeks before opening night, where they tried Luxardo cherries for the first time. They allegedly knew right away they needed to find a way to get them for Pegu. They cleaned out the shelves of a local, high-end market for the opening, and the Luxardo cherries were a huge hit. The Pegu Club and other craft cocktail joints popularized the cherries by word of mouth, and the product is now ubiquitous in bars across America.
The brand offers more than just its signature Maraschino products now.
While Luxardo still crafts many of its products using the original recipes, the brand continues to innovate. Recently, the brand has launched a variety of new liqueurs including the Luxardo Bitter Bianco in 2019 and the Luxardo Espresso Liqueur in 2022, just in time for the Espresso Martini craze. Luxardo has also developed spirits incorporating the brand’s world-famous cherries, including a Sour Cherry Gin.
It even has a line of canned cocktails.
In 2021, the same year it celebrated its 200th anniversary, Luxardo launched a line of ready-to-drink canned cocktails in the U.S., including flavors like Aperitivo Spritz, Bianco Spritz, and Sour Cherry Gin and Tonic.