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Maraschino (pron.: // marr-ə-SKEE-noh) is a bittersweet, clear liqueur flavored with Marasca cherries, which were originally from Dalmatia (Croatia) but are grown today mostly around the city of Zadar (Croatia) and in Torreglia (near Padua in Northern Italy).
The liqueur's distinctive flavor comes from the Marasca cherries and crushed cherry pits, which lend an almond-like flavor. Honey is also part of the ancient recipe. The distillate matures for at least two years in ashwood vats, since this wood does not lend its colour to the liqueur, and is then diluted and sugared. It is typically bottled in a straw-coated bottle.
The first known recipe for this liqueur was written by the apothecaries of the Dominican monastery at Zadar, in the Venetian Dalmatia, at the beginning of the 16th century. It was known as Rosolio, a kind of similar sweet liqueur, whose name came from the word "ros solis"— "the sun dew." In the 18th century this liqueur was named Maraschino, as it was produced from the essence of ripe fruits of the cherry marasca, as well as from the leaves of its sprigs. In the agrarian regions of Dalmatia, Rosolio survived as the name of a traditional home-made liqueur from marasca cherries.
At the beginning, this liqueur of delicate taste—to which medicinal effects were also attributed—was available only to the privileged. With the appearance of the first manufacturing distillers at Zara in the 17th century (Rota, Mola and Calcengio), the secret of "Rosolio Maraschino" taste could be spread.
In the 18th century, when the industrial production of this liqueur began, Maraschino set out from Zadar and "sailed" into ever more important European ports and major cities. Soon it was accepted and favoured by all European courts (Viennese, Berlin, the English court, the Bavarian, Italian, Belgium, and Danish courts) and later on Maraschino spread to America, Canada, Australia, South America and to South Africa.
Maraschino was also admired by one of the biggest conquerors of the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte, who specially enjoyed it after dinner or supper. The French kings, Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe as well as the Czar of Russia Nicholas I admired Maraschino too. The British king George IV sent to Zadar a naval fleet to collect a hundred Maraschino cases for the Royal court at London and for the governors of Malta and Corfu. In 1871, on the request of the English queen Victoria, Maraschino was loaded on the English ships at Zadar port. In 1887, namely on September 26, on his way through Zadar, the Prince of Wales who later become the king George V, personally visited Zadar liqueur factory and on that occasion ordered a considerable quantity of this specialty.
The first industrial distillery was established in 1759 by Francesco Drioli (“Fabbrica di Maraschino Drioli di Zara”). In 1821, Girolamo Luxardo, consul of the Kingdom of Sardinia in Zara, opened a distillery there. Eight years later he obtained an exclusive "privilege" from the Emperor of Austria as an acknowledgment of the superior quality of his liqueur. It soon became the largest and most famous distillery in Zadar.
Most of the Luxardo family (including Pietro and Nicolò Luxardo) fell victim to the retaliation of the Josip Broz Tito's partisans against the Italian community, soon forced to leave Dalmatia in view of the passage of Zadar to Yugoslavia (1947).
Giorgio Luxardo, the only survivor of his family, built a new factory in Torreglia close to Padova, in Northern Italy. The Drioli's distillery reopened in Mira, close to Venice, but was closed in the 1970s. The Vlahov family sold their right to the Casoni's distillery close to Modena, which still produces the liqueur. In Zadar the Luxardo distillery was rebuilt and restarted production under the name Maraska, and is today the most famous Croatian Maraschino distillery.
Historical Maraschino brands in Zadar (before 1943) 
- Maraschino Luxardo (1821)
- Distilleria Romano Vlahov
- Fabbrica Maraschino Drioli Salghetti (1759–1943)
- Fabbrica Maraschino Stampalia
- Distilleria Calligarich
- Distilleria Millicich
- Distilleria Magazzin
- Distilleria Stanich
See also 
Distilleries sites 
- History of Luxardo's distillery (1)
- History of Luxardo's distillery (2)
- History of Drioli distillery (in English and Spanish)
- History of Drioli's distillery in Zara (book in Italian)
- Photos: the destruction of distilleries in WWII