Not long ago, the GrogDog wrote a post about gin that included a recipe for one of my favorite cocktails, the Last Word. I wrote that I hadn’t realized, when I began making this drink, it was not “Maraschino liquor”,

Luxardo_Maraschinowhich could be taken as the syrupy red stuff you pour on your banana split, but “liqueur”, which is a deliberate concoction of a colorless, flavorful cocktail ingredient.

So I drank a lot of pinkish Last Words without realizing they should be a lovely seafoam green, and not contain corn syrup.

Finally, today, I acquired a bottle of actual Maraschino liqueur. Let me tell you, the drink made with the right stuff is soooo good!

Oh. So. Good.

Oh. So. Good.

The kind of Maraschino liqueur used in a Last Word (and other delicious cocktails) is distilled from Marasca cherries in Croatia, and there are several brands on the US market. I found three in one store, which allowed me to compare prices literally side-by-side. They ranged from about $19 to $32 (in the Baltimore/DC metro area). I settled on the third bottle, which cost about $25, and made myself a Last Word when I got home.

It was like the difference between grape juice and a fine Bordeaux… Or grape juice and an indifferent pinot noir. Almost any wine is better than grape juice and neither should be substituted for the other. (Sorry kids; them’s the perks of being a grown-up.)

I’m not keen on spending a lot on drinks you’re shaking up in your kitchen just for yourself (there’s a point of diminishing returns on the cost/sensory benefit), but sometimes that’s reason enough to take the trouble for the fresh lemon juice or shell out for the better liqueur – you’re drinking as much (one hopes, more) for the pleasure of the experience as for the effects.

So if you’re wondering whether it really matters whether you spend an extra few bucks on an ingredient – and your budget will accommodate it – go ahead and upgrade. You won’t regret it.