“Pick a good stem,” says Al Gliniecki, who currently holds three Guinness World Records for most cherry stems knotted using the tongue: 14 in one minute, 39 in three minutes and 911 in one hour. Look for longer stems between one and one and a half inches long. “The thinner the better,” Gliniecki says. At one point, a cherry growers’ association sponsored Gliniecki, a 58-year-old Navy veteran and former firefighter, sending him as many boxes of free cherries as he wanted, despite the fact that he prefers maraschino cherry stems over fresh ones — sugary syrup makes the woody stalks softer and more pliable. Keep them at room temperature. Gliniecki once bloodied his tongue by tying stiff, refrigerated stems.
Take the stem and lay it lengthwise down the center of your tongue. Close your lips. Bend your tongue upward, pinning it against the roof of your mouth. This movement will fold the stem in half and leave the two ends crossed and facing forward. Choose stalks with bulbous tips, so your tongue can more easily locate an end and push it through the loop. “That’s the hardest part,” Gliniecki says. Gently spit the knot out so as not to untie it.
The first time Gliniecki tried to tie a cherry stem, he was in a bar in Pensacola, Fla., and it took him nearly 20 minutes. Some six months later, in August 1994, he set a world record by tying 679 stems in one hour, a record he’d go on to beat several times, most recently in 1997 on “The Ricki Lake Show.” You, too, will get faster with practice.
If you master this skill, be prepared for the relentless sexual subtext that comes with it. “It used to get me dates, but now it just gets me in trouble,” says Gliniecki, who lives with his fiancée. He has had women he doesn’t know call him in the middle of the night. Occasionally, his relationships became strained as a result — the leering…