Most of us are familiar with grenadine, the vibrant red syrup that is a mainstay of the well-stocked bar. Used in cocktails including the Roy Rogers, Tequila Sunrise and the non-alcoholic Shirley Temple, it adds a splash of color and sweetness to a variety of drinks. But because times have changed and most grenadines found in your local grocery are now little more than high-fructose corn syrup and food coloring, the primary ingredient has faded from the mix entirely and many don’t even recall what grenadine is meant to be.
In its basic form, grenadine (also called grenade syrup, after the French word for pomegranate) is pomegranate juice and sugar, combined much like a simple syrup to deliver a sweet and slightly tart kick to beverages. Although pomegranate syrup has been part of Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries, it didn’t appear in the U.S. until the mid- to late 1800s. Within decades, the crimson syrup became a popular addition to cocktails and was soon a standard bar ingredient, used as a flavoring for many mixed drinks in a growing cocktail scene.
Because of the expense and relatively short shelf life of genuine grenadine, it wasn’t long before artificial alternatives began to appear, made with citric acid and spices, but always dyed to imitate the bright-red color of the original. Although some brands of grenadine are still made using pomegranates, many contain no fruit juice at all. The flavor of fresh grenadine has been traded for shelf stability, aggressive sweetness and, of course, artificial color reminiscent of the original syrup.
In recent years, pomegranate juice has seen a surge in popularity for its distinctive flavor and health benefits, making it easier than ever to make your own grenadine at home using store-bought juice or using fresh pomegranates from your own backyard.
Fresh grenadine not only adds amazing flavor to cocktails you didn’t realize were missing it, but it can be used in ways beyond the bar. Try it on ice cream, baked goods or in seltzer or ginger ale for a refreshing DIY soda pop.
When preparing grenadine, stop cooking before it reaches the boiling point, which will take some of the color out of your mixer. Some recipes also call for orange-flower water. It may be added sparingly to give this easy-to-make grenadine complexity, but is not necessary to produce an authentic and spectacular grenadine that will give your cocktails a boost that has been all but lost in modern mixology.
The color of natural grenadine will seem a bit muted compared to the impossibly-red artificial coloring added to commercial grenadine. If you miss it, you can add a few drops of red food coloring once your pomegranate juice has cooled without affecting the flavor.
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan.
Stir over medium-heat until sugar is completely dissolved and juice is just shy of boiling.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
Allow to cool to room temperature and transfer to an airtight container.
Store refrigerated for up to four weeks.