Cherry Heering vs Cherry Liqueur: What’s the Difference?

Bar pros consider how Cherry Heering differs from Maraschino, kirsch, and other cherry spirits, and how best to use it.

<p>Food & Wine / Janet Maples</p>

Food & Wine / Janet Maples

Compared to other spirits categories like whiskey, vodka, or gin, the world of cherry-flavored spirits is relatively small. Within that small category, however, there are products ranging from cherry brandies to cherry-infused spirits, cherry liqueurs, and fortified wines made with cherries.

The scope of products within the cherry liqueur sub-category is surprisingly nuanced. There are bracingly sweet, stoplight-hued bottles, subtly sweet clear-colored variations, and well-known bartender favorites such as maraschino liqueur or Cherry Heering.

Related: 3 Cocktails We Love with Cherry Heering

Some cherry liqueurs are delicate and herbaceous, while others are rich and more similar in character to brandy or port. Many bottles highlight the fruit and botanicals foraged in places like the Dalmatian coast, Scandinavia, and even the United States.

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Cherry Heering, maraschino, kirsch, and other cherry liqueurs, and how to consume them, you're not alone. We’ve consulted with top bartenders to help break down the differences and similarities.

What is Cherry Heering?

“Cherry Heering is a Scandinavian cherry brandy that has been made for over 200 years,” says Liana Oster, a London-based bartender who heads the beverage programs at Side Hustle and the NoMad Restaurant.

In 1818, Peter Heering was running a grocery shop in Copenhagen known for its homemade cherry liqueur, made following a recipe given to him by the wife of a former mentor. It quickly gained popular recognition and became the European nobility’s drink of choice.

Cherry Heering Fast Facts

  • Bright red in color

  • First made in 1818

  • Produced in Denmark and made exclusively from Danish cherries

  • Rich and complex flavor profile - spiced cherry jam

Today, the product is still made in Copenhagen and follows many of the same specs as the original recipe. It uses the Stevns cherry, a strain specific to Denmark which is extraordinarily aromatic. These cherries are crushed and soaked in spices, then aged for up to five years in casks, during which sugar is added. Bottled at 24% ABV, the final spirit is rich and complexly cherry flavored — think black forest cake rather than a cherry gummy candy.

The bright red liqueur is known for its “rich and intense flavor, combining sweet cherries with hints of almond and spices, creating a versatile and indulgent spirit ideal for cocktails and desserts,” says Sarah Elizabeth, the lead bartender at Hôtel Swexan in Dallas.

What is Cherry Liqueur?

Cherry Heering is one of many micro styles of cherry liqueur. While all carry a commonality of certain flavors, production methods can vary.

Some liqueurs are viscous, sweet, neon red, and meant to be added with a soft hand to drinks or served over desserts. Others are rich and aged, resulting in an almost port-like profile. Sometimes the cherry is the base of the spirit, other times cherry flavors are added to a neutral grain spirit (like a vodka). Many cherry brandies can be bottled at around 25—30% ABV, while others can creep up to 40%.

“Two cherry liqueurs could vary vastly from each other,” says Nick Hassiotis, owner of Foundation Social Eatery in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Cherry Liqueur Fast Facts

  • Can be made in a range of styles

  • Produced around the world

  • Can often utilize artificial flavors and colors

  • Category includes Cherry Heering as well as maraschino

In France, Grand Marnier offers a cherry-flavored liqueur, and producer Gabriel Boudier offers a brandy-based cherry liqueur. Giffard produces a cherry brandy and a creme de cerise, a liqueur made in the Loire Valley by macerating cherries in a beet-based liquor.

In the United States, Leopold Bros makes a tart cherry liqueur out of Montmorency cherries grown in Northern Michigan. It’s intense, slightly acidic, and less sweet than most cherry liqueurs. The Colorado-based distillery also makes a maraschino cherry liqueur by fermenting and distilling bright red Adriatic cherries. A separate distillate of coriander and Montmorency cherries is then added before the mixture is sweetened with clover honey.

Then there are spirits like kirsch (German for ‘cherry water’): an unaged and unsweetened eau de vie made by distilling fermented cherry pits in an effort to subdue the sweetness.

Arguably the most famous cherry liqueur is maraschino liqueur, a clear, complex liqueur made from sour marasca cherries. Producers such as Luxardo distill cherries, fruit, pits, stems, and all, to create a spirit with subtle almond, herbal, and slightly bitter-sweet cherry notes. It’s an essential ingredient in many classic cocktails like the Aviation, Last Word, Red Hook, Hemingway Daiquiri, and more.

What’s the difference between Cherry Heering and other cherry liqueurs?

Compared to something like maraschino, Cherry Heering is more intense and sweet, as well as ruby red in hue compared to maraschino's clear appearance.

“Cherry Heering differs from others in color — it's darker than most cherry liqueurs, [and in] the spice profile, and the sweetness level,” says Charles Friedrichs, beverage director at The Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City.

Additionally, “while other cherry liqueurs are permitted to utilize artificial flavors and colors, Cherry Heering can only be made from Danish cherries, a neutral grain spirit, and spice,” says Max Goldberg, the beverage director at The Peninsula Beverly Hills. “The process of crushing the whole Danish cherries with the pits imparts an almond-like aroma to the liqueur which is most notably found in the Blood & Sand cocktail as well as the Singapore Sling.”

"“Cherry Heering differs from others in color — it's darker than most cherry liqueurs, [and in] the spice profile, and the sweetness level." — Charles Friedrichs, beverage director at The Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City"

In cocktails, the liqueur is more versatile than one would assume.

“Cherry Heering is really useful in many classic cocktail variations. It brings fruitiness and body,” says Stanislav Harcinik of Mirror Bar in Bratislava. He’s partial to the Singapore Sling and the Blood & Sand, which combines equal parts scotch, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, and fresh orange juice.

Veteran bartender Lynnette Marrero, of Speed Rack and Masterclass, notes that “the main differences between Cherry Heering and other cherry liqueurs lies in their flavor profiles and production methods.

"Cherry Heering typically has a more pronounced herbal note and is produced by macerating cherries in spirits, which contributes to its rich flavor and complexity. This is not maraschino or kirsch,” she says.

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