Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin is the latest release from the prolific Italian brand and exemplifies what Nicolò Luxardo describes as “the two souls of the company – the heritage and the technological.”
It seems pretty fair to say that, after 199 years’ experience creating superior Maraschino liqueur, Luxardo knows a thing or two about cherries. To this day, the Italian family-run business continues to make its Maraschino to the original recipe, following the same painstaking four-year process to produce one of the world’s most respected liqueurs of its kind. However, Luxardo doesn’t only make Maraschino. On a recent trip to the Luxardo Distillery (read our article here), the family business’ youngest member, Nicolò, told us of a secret, well-guarded book filled with family recipes for whiskies, gins and juniper-based spirits, syrups and liqueurs. One such is the famous Ginepro di Dalmazia, produced by Luxardo since the beginning of 1900s, which forms the basis for its newest product – Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin.
Now, “pink gins” and “flavoured gins” aren’t exactly some of our favourite things out there. In fact, we’ve been known on more than a few occasions to launch into irritating tirades of sanctimonious screeching about the horrors of a number of them that might be found on your supermarket shelf. Amongst the mouth-foaming profanities, observers are able to pick out choice phrases like “heinous sugar content”, “fake flavouring and colouring”, “infuriatingly backwards gender-based marketing”, and “it looks, smells and tastes like child pageant perfume”. So, it’s safe to say, we don’t come to this latest release from a place of fruit-gin-fandom.
So, what is it that makes Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin different? To fully answer that, we need to take a quick step backwards in time.
A Family’s Love Affair with Cherries
Girolamo Luxardo and his wife Maria Canevari, were the people behind the family’s foray into the drinks industry. On a trip to Zara, Girolamo fell head-over-heels in love with the traditional Marasca cherry liqueur produced by all families. The cherries were smaller, darker and much more sour than regular cherries and were macerated and turned into cordials and liqueurs by housewives, who then served them to visitors. Girolamo decided to move his family to the city and once there, Maria started making her own Maraschino liqueur. An incurable entrepreneur, Girolamo saw an opportunity to build a company that produced his wife’s recipe, which was considered far superior in quality to all others around the area, and launched this in 1821.
The family venture grew and thrived until World War II, when the business was decimated and three members of the family were tragically killed. In 1947, the last surviving brother Giorgio, along with fifth generation Nicolò III, rebuilt the distillery and business in Torreglia, near Padua, where the soil PH has similar to Zara’s meaning Marasca cherry trees could be planted. Fun fact: the trees planted here were actually some original Luxardo Marasca that had been lent to a professor in Florence in the 1930s for him to study. The transplanting of these trees from Zara to the new site gave Luxardo a new life, deeply rooted in its history. Today, the family controls 30,000 Luxardo Marasca trees, lovingly producing liqueurs from them as well as the world-famous jars of Luxardo Maraschino Cherries (loved by bartenders and chefs alike), and some of the best jam you’ll ever taste.
Why bother with the history lesson? Well, knowing Luxardo’s respect and adoration for cherries – seriously, these folks macerate their Maraschino cherry mixture for three years when most other macerations take a few hours – meant that when we heard the family has putting out a Sour Cherry Gin, we shut up and paid attention.
Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin
The base of Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin is made using the recipe for Luxardo London Dry Gin, which itself can be traced back to the Ginepro di Dalmazia that the family produced in the 1900s. The recipe contains a careful selection of nine botanicals, including juniper, coriander, iris, angelica, sedge, liquorice, cinnamon, cardamom, and bitter orange, which are infused for 24-hours in traditional copper pot stills prior to distillation. Once distilled, fermented Luxardo Marasca cherry juice is added. The result is a bright, rich, and sour taste that retains the strong juniper and spice of the original distillate. Each bottle is outfitted with an artisanal label designed to reflect 19th century Italy, further celebrating the family’s history.
“Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin incorporates our proprietary Marasca cherries into our historic gin distillate and is one of the only sour cherry gins widely available in the world,” says Matteo Luxardo, export director and sixth generation of the Luxardo family. “The recipe marries two of our oldest recipes to create a flavoured gin, rather than a traditional sloe gin, meant to be used as the main spirit in a cocktail or enjoyed in unusual gin and tonic serves.”
Tasting Notes – Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the rich garnet colouring the natural Marasca cherry juice gives this gin. It’s miles away from that fake, confected colouring of other flavoured gins out there.
Juniper and bitter herbs hide just behind luscious, rounded cherry notes. Further nosing draws out cinnamon, something akin to cloves and zesty bitter orange.
A classically honest Luxardo attitude towards cherries. Tart tannins flirt with a fruity sweetness with a practiced, cheeky poise. Marzipan, pepper, green cardamom and orange follow, brought back around with juicy cherry and dry tannins. Delicious.
Luxardo‘s Global Ambasssor Gareth “G” Franklin states,
“With its use of sour cherry wine, Luxardo has created a versatile gin with its signature cherry as one of the botanicals. The warm spice and vermouth-like hints make it ideal for classics like the Martinez and the sharp cherry notes really lend themselves to long fresh drinks like a Collins or a classic G&T.”
We love it in a Gin Sour, as well as in a Martinez (recipe below)
Sour Cherry Martinez
45ml Sour Cherry Gin
30ml Sweet Vermouth
5ml Maraschino Luxardo
2 dashes of bitters
Stir ingredients and serve with a lemon zest garnish and a Luxardo Maraschino Cherry (or three).