A few weeks ago I got an email from POM, the pomegranate juice company, asking me to try out some of their promotional cocktail recipes. These drinks are more on the fruity side than I usually go for in my drinks, but one thing I have been wanting to do is experiment with homemade grenadine. They were nice enough to send me a box of POM so I could make a few batches and taste them side-by-side.
Most modern grenadines are pretty much just high-fructose corn syrup and red food coloring, so you wouldn’t know that they’re supposed to taste like pomegranate. (Hence the name from the French for pomegranate, grenade, from which hand grenades are also named.) It’s a cocktail ingredient I’ve tended to ignore because of the poor quality of commercial brands, so making my own opens up many new possibilities for mixing.
My guide in this is Paul Clarke, who compared two recipes back in 2006. I’ll go over those briefly and then add one variation of my own; click over to his site for more details.
Cold Process — The first method is the easiest and Paul credits it to David Wondrich. Pour one cup pomegranate juice and one cup of sugar into a tightly sealed jar and shake vigorously. Then add another ounce or two of sugar and repeat. There you go, a simple grenadine.
Hot Process — The second method takes a little more work but is still very easy. Pour two cups of POM into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in one cup of sugar and now you’ve got another simple grenadine.
Like Paul, I think both methods have their virtues. The first is light, fruity, and sweet. The second is thicker and more intense, but with a noticeably cooked flavor. Either one could serve admirably in the right cocktail and they’re both much better than bottled brands I’ve tasted. They’re also very easy to make. For anyone mixing drinks at home, I’d highly recommend buying the juice and making your own instead of settling for commercial varieties.
If you want to tweak things a bit further, here’s the third method I tried:
Hot Process II — Make the hot process recipe above, but finish by adding a very small amount of citric acid (start with 1/8 tsp).
Including pure citric acid in a homemade recipe might seem like a step backward, but there’s nothing scary or unnatural about it. We add it to cocktails every time we squeeze a lemon or lime into them; this is the same stuff in purified form. It restores some of the brightness to grenadine that’s lost in the hot process. If you don’t like the cooked taste that comes with the latter, try adding a bit of citric acid. Go easy though: A little bit goes a long way, and I completely ruined my first batch by using too much. (If you’re lucky you can find the acid at a good grocery store, otherwise you might need to look online.)
At some point I’d like to try this again with fresh pomegranates, but they take a lot of work, are messy, and are not always available. Usng POM is much easier and makes a tasty grenadine. If you want to try this with whole fruits, check Robert Love’s blog for some tips. (Note that he adds citric acid too, in the form of fresh lemon juice.)
This post wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail. My favorite recipe using grenadine so far is the Ward Eight, its creation generally credited to the Locke-Ober Cafe in Boston around 1898 to celebrate the victory of corrupt local politician Martin Lomasney:
2 oz rye or bourbon
.5 oz orange juice
.5 lemon juice
1 tsp grenadine
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass for a refreshing variation on the whiskey sour.
As I said above, grenadine is an overlooked ingredient for me and I now have a ton of it to experiment with. What are your favorite grenadine cocktails? I’d be glad to try your recommendations for how to use it next.