So, if you're a bar-geek you may already know that the bright red cherries starring in a Shirley Temple drink are not the real deal.
The original maraschino cherries came from Croatia. They are made with whole Marasca cherries preserved in the liqueur made from them. These cherries still exist and you may run into one at an "artisan" bar. They are dark red, almost black.
The U.S. developed a different process in the 1920's to make the smurf-happy red cherries you meet in dive bars. Ernest H. Wiegand of Oregon State University created this method. They were made by soaking American cherries in a bleaching brine to remove their color and then soaking them in bright red dye, sugar, and sometimes almond flavor.
From here the story turns darker.
In the 1970's, the food industry wanted to find a cheaper and quicker process. Nameless product developers found that instead of soaking the cherries first to remove their color before dyeing them, the process could be done almost instantaneously by just scaring the crap out of the cherries.
A series of lab experiments, code named "cherry terror" (not to be confused with the porn movie), relentlessly searched to find what scared the fruits fastest.
The process in use today involves rapidly flashing a series of horrifying images over a pallet of cherries. Images include searing sun, hail, hungry birds, fruit flies and worms. A menacing soundtrack of a laughing Vincent Price plays. Just when the cherries are terrified white, sweetened red dye spills over them in a Carrie-like fashion from a suspended bucket.
So, next time you visit that tiki-bar and gulp down an old-fashioned with a 50's-lipstick-red cherry at the bottom, remember the innocent fruit that suffered to create it.