A few of these and I’ll be drunk dialing Ina at two in the morning to tell her how much I adore her!

Seriously, these are divine, and they make me think of my Nana Caila for two reasons. First, although she wasn’t a frequent cocktailer, Nana would enjoy an Apricot Sour every now and again, and my sister and I used to love sipping her sweet drink-o. And the second reason involves the maraschino cherry. When I was a little girl, Nana hosted almost all the holiday dinners at her big house in Pawtucket, and her standard first course was a halved, sectioned grapefruit on a fancy cut-crystal plate garnished with a cherry in the middle. I was probably three years old at one such dinner, and while all the grown-ups were busy having cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the living room, I wandered into the dining room with the long, beautifully set table. Nana’s linens were always meticulously starched and pressed, and the table had been set formally and impeccably. She had already put a plated grapefruit appetizer at each place, and those tempting “chellies” were calling my name. I looked around, and since was no one was watching, I decided to help myself. I vividly remember climbing up onto one of her splendidly upholstered dining room chairs and shimmying across the rest of the chairs on one long side of the table, plucking all the shiny red treats along the way and popping them into my mouth. I was caught moments later ““ literally red-handed ““ by my darling Grandpa, who was much more tickled than horrified by the sight of his first grandbaby, the maraschino thief. I’m sure Nana was none too pleased by my lack of etiquette, but I have to imagine everyone had a good laugh, because c’mon, it had to be pretty cute, right?

Anyway, I grew up and eventually developed disdain for the lowly maraschino cherry. They are ““ let’s face it ““ gross. Artificial, sickeningly sweet, just plain wrong. There has never been a situation where I’ve said, “Hey, this is a good reason to eat maraschino cherries!” until I came across this nostalgic recipe which calls for them. Nowadays you can buy them soaked in brandy, which significantly upped the appeal for me.

So I made the simple syrup, squeezed the lemons and limes (bottled sour mix? feh!), mixed in some Maker’s Mark and put half the concoction into a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. I shook and shook and shook ““ quite vigorously ““ and just as I was about finished shaking, the lid flew off and the whole shaker’s worth splashed all over the counter and into the sink.

Thankfully the recipe makes four servings, and I was able to safely shake the remaining half of the concoction, pour into glasses, and savor the sweet-tart-oaky cocktail. It was a delightful drink with savory hors d’oeuvres, and you’ll be glad to know that I managed to restrain myself from stealing the cherries in the other glasses. Of course genetics being what they are, I walked into the kitchen and caught Big Ben red-handed with the jar of maraschinos ““ shamelessly popping them into his adorable pie hole!

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