Luxardo, Maraschino, and intro to the Aviation
Today I’ll examine the Luxardo—it’s history, it’s unique bottle, the surprising cherries it uses, and some surprisingly delicious that are unique to this cordial.
Luxardo – Some History
Luxardo was founded in the city of Zara, on Italy’s Dalmatian coast. What’s interesting, is that, while Zara used to be part of the Venetian serenissima Republic, upon its collapse at the end of the 18th century, it reverted to Austrian control. Girolano Luxardo moved to Zara and founded the distillery. Inspired by his wife, Maria Canevari, who was making homemade cherry liqueur which was both popular and well regarded, he dedicated much of his life, and 8 years of research, to distilling the perfect “rosolio maraschino”.
His quest was so successful, that in the Emperor of Austria provided an official endorsement, which, with respect to Mr. Wondrich, was an even stronger endorsement. You’ll still see on the bottle the words:
Pr. Fabbrica “Excelsior”
which is short for:
“PRIVILEGIATA FABBRICA MARASCHINO EXCELSIOR,” or the Emperor’s privilege.
The distillery stayed in Zara until damage from the bombings in the war forced a move in 1947 to Torreglia, in the Veneto region, where it remains, and where the Luxardo family, in its sixth generation, continues to harvest their 22,000 sour marasca cherry trees to continue Girolamo’s legacy. In 1947 the city was renamed from the Italian Zara to the Croatian “Zadar,” as good a reason as any for an Italian family to return to the motherland.
Luxardo – The Bottle
The most unusual part is the straw covering for the bottle. For those who remember the horrific cheap Chianti revival in the wine world, will notice that a similar packaging motif is used here. The old Italian city state republics, particularly Venice, covered their bottles in straw as a simple way to pop and prevent air bubbles.
Luxardo – The Cherries
It’s important to note here, that Luxardo is not made from the type of cherries that pop in your mouth. Unless you’re in the habit of eating raw cranberries, and quaffing straight lime juice, you’ll find the marasca cherries, that originated off of the coast of Croatia, are too tart to enjoy on their own. But it is precisely this kind of fruit that yields the highest quality spirits. The location of Zara on the old Croatian coast and the transplantation of these varietals back with the family to Italy gives Maraschino credibility as a traditional produces of these fruits, even though it is not, strictly, located in the region anymore.
Luxardo – Unique Uses
We surprised our staff by buying organic, local apples, and coating them lightly with Luxardo. The resulting popularity of this unbelievably simple refreshment causes me to mention it here. It is-simply put-much much better than it has any right to be. Our head instructor, Luciano, informed me that Luxardo is used in this way on a myriad of fruits in Italy, particularly kiwi and pineapple, which both impressed and intrigued me.
Try coating fruit with this spirit at home and notice how the heavy citrus “bite” meshes with the quick attack and leisurely finish of the Luxardo!
In the next part, I talk about the cocktail that made it a star, the Aviation.
You can read about it here: