A maraschino cherry is a Red Food Dye sweet cherry (Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold). They are usually sweetened and contained in jars from simple pint sized jars to gallon jars. They are usually used as a garnish in cocktails as well as decorations for baked hams, cakes, pastries, and ice cream sodas. I was introduced to them in kindergarten and first grade. My parents would invite guests to dinner and serve cocktails. My father would prepare an ice tray filled with water and then place a cherry in each section. I would munch on them before the party and batted clean-up on any left overs . . . even in glasses with left over booze in them. Even as a child I was “high” achiever.
Since then I have always enjoyed the faux cocktail, the Shirley Temple, which is an on-the-rocks lemon-lime soda with sweetened cherry syrup and maraschino cherries. The drink is named after the 1930s child actress Shirley Temple. Supposedly, the drink was created by the Beverly Hills restaurant Chasen’s for her 10th birthday. Other restaurants and lounges also claim the honor of creating the drink in the name of the wildly popular young film star.
My wife Peg and I have been publishing our staycation and dining reviews for almost twenty years. When we visited a restaurant Peg would order a glass of wine with dinner, while I as the designated driver usually opted for a cola and then slowly became a Shirley Temple order. Originally I would just order the Shirley Temple and then it changed when we dined and I was served with one cherry. I began to order “A Shirley Temple with lots of cherries.” This changed when dining at Johnny’s Dock along the Thea Foss waterway. I was served only two. The next time I would just cut to the chase and say, “A Shirley Temple and your tip depends on the number of cherries.” This worked well. Before the La Fondita closed on North Proctor, I did my little “tip” routine and the waiter returned with a gallon jar. I got a good laugh out of it and he got a good tip. Now, I’m back to just “lots of cherries” which works well when dining at our favorites dining spots. Last night at Joeseppi’s there must have been over a dozen floating in my glass, but they were small cherries. At Pacific Grill I have to cut the wait staff off. Otherwise they would keep bringing me Shirley Temples and cherries until I burst. Now, I just thank them and say, “I’m trying to cut back.” Often I am brought the drink AND a small blow of cherries.
I think I really began ordering Shirley Temples mostly when we first started having grandchildren. We would order them Shirley Temples. A favorite story involved one of our youngest at Giorgio’s. She came over and stood next to my chair and asked if she could have some of my cherries. She was shocked and crestfallen when I said, “No!” As if I could ever tell a grandchild no. I finished off my comment with “Order your own.” In an “Eureka” moment her eyes lit up and she asked, “I can order my own?” I said, “Sure. Just tell the waitress what you want.” Recently at dinner with four grandchildren, two of them were drinking Italian Sodas and two were drinking Shirley Temples with lots of cherries. There might have been cherries in the sodas as well. I was so proud.
It’s not just me and the kids of course. Two of my buddies joined me at the Red Robin by the Tacoma Mall for lunch. We all ordered burgers and I asked for a Shirley Temple. My friends did a quick double-take and changed their drink orders as well. As we munched on our hamburgers and sipped our drinks, a woman at the next table asked, “What are you drinking?” Soon there was another table of Shirley Temple drinkers.