Orasella was born on a rare snowy Seattle evening
when two long-time friends determined that all craft cocktails deserved the artisan cherries they had perfected and enjoyed. But the story actually begins almost 20 years before...
On a hot August day in Indiana, two fresh-faced 18 year olds arrived on campus at the University of Notre Dame. Anne Iasella SanGiovanni had traveled from a farm in Yakima, Washington, one of the premier cherry-producing regions of the country. Heidi Orde Stender grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, knowing not one single thing about cherries, but taught to track a wounded deer in a pinch. They were assigned housing in the same small dormitory and quickly became friends, not knowing that their friendship would continue nearly two decades and counting.
Anne's path led her to a graduate degree in design and a career in interactive marketing at one of Seattle’s top agencies. Heidi worked as a Boeing aerospace engineer and lawyer. Eventually, they both made homes in Seattle with their husbands and families – just 5 blocks apart. With four children between them, their free hours were precious and few, yet they still made time to foster a mutual passion: making and preserving food together from the fresh, local produce provided by Anne’s Yakima family farm. Several years ago, spurred by lengthy home renovations and, frankly, the children, the friends also began making craft cocktails at shared family meals.
Everyone loved the sweet pop of a cherry at the bottom of a high-ball glass, but mass produced cherry garnishes were sub-par – even the premium ones. Cloyingly sweet, many disintegrated at the bottom of a drink, and none bore any resemblance the actual fruit they had once been. Even worse, almost all "maraschino cherries" failed to contain any actual maraschino liqueur. So Anne and Heidi did what they had always done: make it themselves and make it a better product using fresh local ingredients.
With an engineer's rigor and a designer's flair, the friends systematically produced and tested batch after batch (after batch) of maraschino cherries. Seven different cherry varieties were tested and discarded before finding one that would hold its shape, withstand processing, and give the liquid a beautiful, rich color in the jar. Stems were trimmed in the Italian tradition at varying lengths until they provided the perfect handle with which to grasp the fruit at the base of the glass. Sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and other flavorings were varied individually and in concert to provide just the right complement to cocktails. After recipe testing over 250 pounds of cherries, they finally arrived at a recipe that satisfied them.
Which brings our story back to the snowy evening in downtown Seattle. As the friends sipped premium cocktails with mediocre garnishes and watched the flakes settle over the buildings and streets, Heidi turned to Anne.
"This drink is good, but you know what would make it perfect?" she asked.
Anne smiled. “We need to make our cherries for other people. Let’s do it."
So they did. Orasella Maraschino Cherries are now ready to share with people who believe a cocktail’s finish is as important as its first taste. Enjoy!