It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even knew what flavor grenadine was supposed to be. If I’d had to guess I might have gone with a hesitant cherry??? or whatever flavor the Michigan-made Faygo Red Pop I grew up with is supposed to be.
It would have taken me numerous wrong guesses before I would have thought of pomegranate. If I knew more French or Spanish, in which the words for pomegranate are grenade and grenada, respectively, I might have guessed at the etymological clues.
To be honest, even though I drank my share of cloying Shirley Temples at wedding receptions as a kid, I never particularly liked grenadine and didn’t think much about it until I started exploring the world of craft cocktails and realized that so many syrups and other cocktail ingredients could easily be made better than the high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavor and color concoctions you can buy in the “mixers” aisle at an average liquor store.
To make grenadine, you really just need pomegranate juice and cane sugar. You can squeeze your own pomegranate juice if that’s your thing. Jeffrey Morgenthaler (who tends to be right about these things) says that you can slice the fruit in half and squeeze it like an orange with a citrus press. (One fruit is supposed to yield about a cup of juice.) But I’ll be honest that I’ve never actually bothered with that because I picture myself and my kitchen covered with bright garnet-colored splatter that I just don’t wanna clean up. I just buy 100% pomegranate juice (such as Pom Wonderful) that’s in the refrigerated section of my grocery store. It should be pretty easy to find. Then all you need to do is combine equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. You want to avoid heating the pomegranate juice to a boil, not just because the evaporation will throw off your ratio of juice to sugar, but because you want to retain as much fresh pomegranate flavor as possible. Cooked pomegranate juice just isn’t the same. (You could also make this with a cold process, which involves shaking the juice and sugar together for about ten minutes until combined. This would retain the fresh fruit flavor, but not so much the freshness of your shoulder tendons. If you are young, ambitious, and unfamiliar with joint pain, go ahead and give it a try…)
If you want to get fancy, and I tend to, you can add a little pomegranate molasses, which is a thick syrupy concentrated Middle Eastern pomegranate sauce, for extra pomegranate flavor. You could also add a tiny splash of orange blossom water for some aromatic floral notes. I find both of these at the Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery in my neighborhood, but they’re available online as well.
If you want to keep it around for more than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to add a splash of vodka or gin, which will act as a preservative and keep it fresh in the refrigerator for over a month.
And really, that’s all there is to it. You can be making better Shirley Temples and Jack Roses and a world of tiki drinks and grenadine sodas in no time.
- 8 ounces pomegranate juice (236 ml)
- 1 cup cane sugar (200 grams) preferably organic
- 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses optional
- 1/2 teaspoon orange flower water optional
- 1 tablespoon vodka optional but recommended as a preservative
In a saucepan over low heat, combine the pomegranate juice, cane sugar, pomegranate molasses (if using) and orange flower water (if using), and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the vodka (if using). Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator.