By Forest Collins
In exploring the creative possibilities of the Old Fashioned, it’s important not to overlook the garnish. While some cocktail lovers might like a simple twist, others can’t go without a candied sour cherry. Either way, it’s essential to find a quality product with intent and not just treat it as a decorative afterthought. To gain a bit more insight into the cherry-as-garnish camp, we turned to Stefano Toschi of the Italian company Toschi Vignola, which has been preserving cherries for several decades, to learn more about their process and his feelings on the Old Fashioned.
Forest Collins: Can you tell us about yourself and your role in the family business?
Stefano Toschi: I’m the commercial Director of the Company and 3rd generation of the family. Toschi is a 100% family company own by the Toschi and Montorsi families.
FC: Let’s talk about your cherries. I understand they are one of the most popular products in the Toschi range. What makes them stand apart from other candied cherries?
ST: Toschi is based in Vignola, which is considered the “cherry town.” My grandfather started the business, preserving cherries in alcohol and in 1950 we began production of Amarena cherries in syrups. What’s make the difference is, of course, our very old family recipes – coming from my great grandmother’s recipe book! – which are made using quality products and production processes. Just test them to taste the difference!
FC: What makes the Toschi cherries work especially well in Old Fashioned cocktails?
ST: The difference between Amarena Toschi and any other regular cherry, especially the Maraschino, is the unique flavor profile and the way it works with the cocktail.
FC: You have both a green and red cherry in the product range. What’s the difference between the two?
ST: Our other product is the classic maraschino with stem. We have it in order to offer a very complete range, but it is a totally different product with a different taste and production process. With the maraschino, the candying process is quicker so the resulting syrup is lighter. With the Amerena, on the other hand, the juice is richer and more flavorful and can also be used to flavor a drink. This is what makes the Amarena a better choice for a cocktail garnish.
FC: I understand that the cherries were the first product created by Toschi, but can you tell us a little bit about the toschi brand and the products you produce?
ST: In 1945, we bagan by processing cherries and liqueurs and we now have three different divisions including beverages, which is cherry liqueurs and syrups, gelato ingredients and balsamic vinegar.
FC: What is the best Old Fashioned you ever had?
ST: That was in New York at a beautiful rooftop bar.
FC: What was the last Old Fashioned you had?
ST: That was ten days ago in Gallipoli south of Puglia in a beautiful old town bar called Blanc.
Thanks, Stefano, for giving us a little look into the world of cherries!