Superb on Ice Cream — or in Cocktails
Grenadine is a bright red, pomegranate-flavored syrup. You’ve probably heard of it, though it’s not a regular item on most grocery shopping lists.
Which is probably a good thing. Because, well . . . have you tried buying grenadine lately? Every grocery store has something they call “grenadine” that they’ll be happy to sell you. But take a look at the list of ingredients: no pomegranate to be found. Instead, you see high-fructose sugar syrup and “flavorings.” And when you taste the store-bought stuff? You encounter a sickeningly sweet liquid with a flavor that’s (very) vaguely reminiscent of cherries. These supermarket concoctions bear almost no resemblance to real grenadine.
Oh, there are quality commercial grenadines out there, but you have to hunt them down. And when you find them, they’re expensive. But the good news is, you don’t have to pay big bucks or troll the internet for obscure suppliers. You can make excellent grenadine at home in just a few minutes — and begin enjoying the awesome flavor of the real thing.
Grenadine is a traditional ingredient in several cocktails and “mocktails” (it’s a prime component of that kiddie favorite, the Shirley Temple, for example). It’s also a great topping for ice cream and a wonderful flavoring agent for nonalchoholic summer coolers.
Bottom line: Homemade Grenadine is flavorful, easy to make, and all natural. And it’s so good, you’ll find dozens of uses for it.
Recipe: Homemade Grenadine
Traditional grenadine is made from pomegranates, sugar, and sometimes additional flavorings like orange blossom water. It’s a sweet/tart mixture that has an enticing and intriguing flavor.
The biggest obstacle to making your own grenadine is acquiring pomegranate juice. You can of course obtain it in the traditional way — by removing the seeds from a fresh pomegranate and juicing them. But that’s tedious and messy (juicing a pomegranate stains your hands, your work surface, your juicer — you get the idea). But there’s an easier way: Every supermarket sells high-quality pomegranate juice at a reasonable price. That’s what I use. (If you really want to juice your own pomegranates, I’ll discuss a couple of ways to do that in the Notes.)
Grenadine is really little more than Simple Syrup made with pomegranate juice instead of water. There are numerous recipes for making your own grenadine — some simple, some more complicated. My go-to recipe is very easy, and requires only two ingredients. (In the Notes, I explore more elaborate variations.) My recipe is adapted from David Wondrich’s in Killer Cocktails.
This recipe takes 10 minutes or less to make and yields a bit more than two cups. You can easily scale it down (or up) to meet your needs. It will store in the refrigerator for a good month (longer if you add alcohol as a preservative; see Notes).
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 2 cups sugar
- Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan. Heat slowly over low heat (you don’t want this to simmer or even come close — the juice loses some of its color and freshness if it’s overheated), stirring the sugar until it dissolves.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, immediately remove the pan from the heat. Cool, then pour into a squeeze bottle or other container with a lid, and refrigerate.
- Alternate method: Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Cover, and shake vigorously until sugar dissolves completely. This will take several minutes (as many as 10), but the resulting grenadine will have a somewhat brighter flavor.
- As you can see, this recipes calls for equal amounts of pomegranate juice and sugar, so it’s easy to scale up or down.
- If you want a grenadine that's a bit less (or more!) sweet, you can use a bit less (or more) sugar.
- You can add a teaspoon or two of orange blossom water to grenadine to give it extra tang (this ingredient is available at Middle Eastern groceries, on the Internet, and at some health food stores). If using this, add it in Step 2 — simply stir it into the mixture after you remove the pan from the heat.
- You can also add pomegranate molasses to grenadine to give it slightly greater depth of flavor (this ingredient is also available at Middle Eastern groceries or via the Internet). Add a tablespoon of molasses to the mix in Step 1.
- If you want to make your own pomegranate molasses, here’s how: Combine 2 cups of pomegranate juice, 2/3 cup of sugar, and 2/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice in a saucepan, and simmer on low heat until the mixture has reduced to slightly under 1 cup (this takes about an hour). I learned how to make pomegranate molasses from Paul Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.
- For a somewhat more streamlined method of making pomegranate molasses, see Katherine Martinelli's description in her post on Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Molasses.
- I’ve made grenadine several different ways: Using my two-ingredient recipe above; with orange blossom water added; and with both orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses added. I’ve found that my simple version is definitely better for ice cream and desserts. The version with both extra ingredients has slightly superior flavor for cocktails — but only slightly. Unless you really want to play with this recipe, I’d just make the simple version.
- I’ve also seen some recipes for grenadine that substitute rosewater for orange blossom water. I haven’t tried this, but it sounds delicious (although again, I’m guessing my simple version is better for desserts).
- Adding alcohol to homemade grenadine will help retard spoilage. If you do this, use something flavorless — an ounce or so of vodka, or about half an ounce of pure grain alcohol. (If you do this, the grenadine will no longer be alcohol free, of course, so it won’t work in a kiddie cocktail).
- I recommend buying fresh pomegranate juice for making grenadine (and for making pomegranate molasses). Pom is the brand every supermarket seems to stock, and it’s good.
- As noted above, you can juice your own pomegranates, but that’s messy (the juice seems to stain everything it touches). The easiest way to juice a pomegranate is to just cut it in half and use a juicer. But there’s a problem with this method: In addition to staining your juicer, you’re going to extract some bitter flavor from the white part of the pomegranate. So the juice won’t be as tasty as it would be if you extracted it from the seeds alone.
- Paula Wolfert recommends removing the pomegranate seeds (they contain the juice), then wrapping them in cheesecloth, and squeezing them with your hand to juice. The problem with this method is that it takes quite a while. It also takes a lot of pomegranates for the amount of juice you need (your hand just isn’t strong enough to extract all the juice).
- Neither of these methods appeals to me, so I just buy pomegranate juice pre-squeezed from the refrigerator case in my supermarket.
- Homemade grenadine doesn’t have the same garish, fluorescent red color as the commercial kind. If you really miss that look (and it’s oddly compelling, I agree), just add some red food coloring when you make your grenadine. That’s what the commercial guys use.
- Speaking of commercial, Rose’s Grenadine is the ready-made brand you’re most likely to find in grocery stores. Unlike Rose’s Lime Juice — which is superb in its own way, and necessary for making a proper Gimlet Cocktail — Rose’s Grenadine just isn’t very good, in my opinion.
- If you really want to buy ready-made grenadine, Sonoma Syrup Company does sell an excellent one, but it’s a bit pricy.
Using Your Homemade Grenadine
Once you have Homemade Grenadine in the refrigerator, you’ll find lots of uses for it. It makes a terrific sauce for ice cream. Topping vanilla ice cream with grenadine is a no brainer — it looks so pretty! But grenadine’s flavor also works well with cherry or chocolate ice cream. I suspect you can find many more flavors to combine it with.
You can also use it as a “dipping” sauce for cakes or brownies. Or serve it with cheesecake.
Grenadine is a natural in nonalcoholic drinks, where it adds color, flavor, and sweetness. (Need to mix up a Shirley Temple? Here’s the quick recipe: Pour ginger ale or lemon-lime soda into glass, add a splash of grenadine, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.) For a more adult nonalcoholic drink, add half an ounce or so of grenadine to a tall glass of iced tonic water or lemonade. Grenadine is also good in tea (iced or hot).
But grenadine is probably best known as an ingredient for cocktails — including some we’ll be featuring as our Summer Sippin’ Series continues. For example, it’s what puts the “sunrise” in the Tequila Sunrise. You can read about that drink later this week — just in time for July 24. Which, in case you didn’t know, is National Tequila Day. I kid you not.
And you’ll be ready for it!
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