A variety of garnishes can add a bit of pizazz to a cocktail. Adding a twist of citrus imparts great flavor from the oils of the fruit, paired with a pop of color from the peel. A sprig of rosemary or a few dried, edible flowers can be a beautiful touch as well. Even something as simple as a cocktail cherry can elevate a drink to a whole new level of elegance. But how exactly are those darling cocktail cherries made? We sat down with Anne SanGiovanni, owner of Washington-made Orasella Maraschino Cherries, to learn more.

Inspired by the Fruit

SanGiovanni grew up surrounded by agriculture in Washington’s  Yakima Valley, one of the nation’s top cherry growing regions. Years later, her brother began his own fruit business, tending to cherry orchards in the valley. “I was getting boxes and boxes of fruit of his every year,” SanGiovanni says. So, she decided to put all of those extra cherries to good use.

“At the time, my business partner found the original recipe for the Italian maraschino cherry. There was nothing like it on the market,” SanGiovanni says.

According to SanGiovanni, fruit was historically preserved in alcohol. The method allowed the fruit to be kept fresh for months on end before the days of refrigeration. The term maraschino actually comes from the liqueur that was traditionally used to keep cherries preserved, and SanGiovanni and her business partner sought to harness that flavor. “We took that recipe and played with it until we came up with one we liked,” SanGiovanni says. “We’re still the only company that flavors their cherries with maraschino liqueur.”

Once the recipe was nailed down in 2015, it made for the perfect complement to at-home cocktails for the duo. But it wasn’t long before the two business partners realized the cocktails people enjoyed at bars and restaurants or in their own homes would be that much better with one of their handcrafted cherries in the drink. They began selling Orasella Cherries to local bars, and the retail business continued growing from there. 

Intentionally Crafting Cocktail Cherries

There are plenty of maraschino cherry options on the market, ranging in quality level, so what makes an Orasella cherry different? “When you think of American cocktail cherries, you think of neon, red-dyed cherries,” says SanGiovanni. “Our goal was to elevate the American cocktail cherry and do it in a different way.”

Orasella Maraschino Cherries start with cherries that are freshly picked during Washington’s cherry season. “We have outgrown my brother’s farm at this point, but we still get all of our fruit from eastern Washington,” SanGiovanni says. Some of the Yakima Valley’s top fruit growers supply Orasella with their cherries, including Allan Brothers Fruit and Zirkle Fruit Company, along with Martin Family Orchards in Orondo.

The fruit is picked at the optimal time and sized, since most cherries grown for a consumer market are a bit larger than what you might want gracing your drink. The cherries are pitted, and then SanGiovanni gets to work on preservation. “We preserve every cherry by hand during the eight-week cherry harvest,” she says. The cherries are paired with the maraschino liqueur to capture and complement the great flavor of the fruit. From there, the cherries are jarred and distributed nationwide, as bars love to utilize them in their craft cocktails, along with customers crafting drinks at their own home bar. “It adds a bit of elegance to your cocktail,” SanGiovanni says. “It’s one thing to have a cocktail, but it’s another to make it beautiful.” 

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