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FOOD 101: The History Of Chocolate-Covered Cherries

January 3rd is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day.

Here’s a history of the popular bonbon, adapted from an article by Esther Martin-Ullrich which appeared in Candy Favorites.

Chocolate-covered cherries, more formally called cherry cordials, are a chocolate shell filled with a cherry and sugar syrup, plain or flavored with alcohol.

The word “cordial” derives from the Latin “cor,” heart, and referred to a medicinal tonic, which was believed to stimulate the heart and improve circulation.

This medicinal use of the cordial continued through the 1400s, when it arrived in England. There, cordials were taken after a big meal to settle the stomach and aide digestion.

Cross back over to France: In the 1700s, a confection called griottes (gree-OAT) appeared in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Cherries were a local crop, and long-stemmed sour griotte cherries were enrobed in chocolate with some of the local kirsch (cherry brandy).

The concept was brought to America, where the term “cordial” was used to describe a particular type of strong liqueur. It was made by crushing whole cherries, including the pits, and steeping them in a sugar syrup with a bit of alcohol.

The mixture was strained to become a sweet, thick, syrupy alcohol with a strong fruity flavor. Intense and very sweet, it was used (as grenadine is today) to make a mixed drink, or sipped in small amounts as an after-dinner beverage.

However, chocolate lovers were not to be disappointed.

Liqueur chocolate cherries, like those made in France, became a popular treat in America. While cordial candies could be made with other fruits, cherries were—and continue to be—the most popular.

  John & Kira's Chocolate Covered Cherries
[1] Chocolate-covered cherries from John & Kira’s (photo Katharine Pollak |

Chocolate Covered Cherries
[2] Homemade chocolate-covered cherries from Taste Of Home.

The cherries were pitted and heated in the liqueur for a short period of time.

As the concept evolved, varieties were made without liqueur, substituting a sugar syrup flavored with cherries, similar to modern chocolate-covered maraschino cherries. The pitted cherries were cooked in sugar syrup instead of alcohol.

Today’s chocolate-covered cherries can be made:

  • In a shell mold. Liquid chocolate is poured into a mold to a form a shell. The shell is filled with cordial or sugar syrup and a cherry. Before the shell hardens completely, it is sealed at the bottom with more chocolate.
  • Enrobed. In enrobing, the centers of the chocolates are run under a poured liquid chocolate to cover. Alternatively, cherries can be dipped by the stem into liquid (melted) chocolate.
  • Solid filling. This method uses a center of solid sugar and cherry. An enzyme called invertase is added; it converts the sugar to liquid. It’s the way mass-produced chocolate-covered cherries are often produced today.
    It’s your turn: Go out and find some chocolate-covered cherries to celebrate.


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