Grenadine Face-off

Grenadine is one of the most common and versatile sweeteners and flavorings in classic mixology; it’s also damn difficult to find — the real stuff, anyway. Originally a pomegranate-based syrup, grenadine has been hybridized and bastardized out of existence, so that virtually all commercial versions contain little if any actual pomegranate juice. This is a pity — pomegranate has such a bright, fruity (for lack of a better word) flavor that to replace it with a mishmash of high-fructose corn syrup and red food coloring is a real insult to honest cocktails.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to make your own grenadine at home. I’ve come across several recipes for the do-it-yourselfer, and there are two that seem to be the most popular: a cold-process mix of pomegranate juice and sugar, and a hot-process method that involves a pomegranate reduction and sugar. But which version makes the more promising grenadine?

Last week I cozied up in my kitchen with a couple of bottles of POM pomegranate juice and a bag of sugar, and set out to determine which process makes the better grenadine.

VERSION ONE — COLD-PROCESS

I started the comparison with a cold-process version. I first came across this recipe in David Wondrich’s Killer Cocktails a little more than a year ago, and it’s been my go-to recipe ever since.

Take one cup of pomegranate juice, and place it in a jar with one cup of granulated sugar. Seal tightly and shake like hell until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add another ounce or two of sugar and repeat. Voila – a simple grenadine. [Optional: Add an ounce of high-proof vodka or grain alcohol as a preservative. You can also store this in a plastic container in the freezer; the high volume of sugar keeps it from freezing, and you can just tip out a little frigid syrup each time you need it.]

The cold process produces a grenadine that has all the bright, fresh flavor of pomegranate juice, with enough sugar to make it useful as a sweetener in cocktails such as a Jack Rose or a Bacardi cocktail. When working with drink recipes, you may need to use more of the homemade version than the recipe calls for to create the desired sweetness. This version also lacks the depth of color found in commercial varieites; if you like, add a few drops of red food coloring.

VERSION TWO – HOT PROCESS

I first came across this version on Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller’s Martini Place; a recent exchange over at Boston Cocktails got me thinking about it again, and this experiment marks the first time I’ve tried using the hot process for grenadine.

Pour two cups of POM into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat until reduced by half. Add one cup of sugar, and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool; if desired, add high-proof vodka or grain alcohol as a preservative (it also keeps well, and doesn’t freeze solid, in a plastic container in the freezer).

This process produces a grenadine that has a deeper color and a richer flavor. While the cold process makes a grenadine that is fresh and light, the hot process makes a more intensely flavored end product, with a distinct “cooked” taste. It’s still not as sweet as the commercial versions, so you may need to alter the proportions in your cocktail recipes, but the rich, red color is there.

VERDICT: Hard to say — both versions are far superior to any commercial grenadine I’ve tried, and comparing the two is more a challenge for personal tastes. I find myself drawn to the fresher flavor of the cold-process grenadine, as when it’s used in a cocktail such as a Jack Rose or El Presidente, that brightness helps lift the overall flavor of the drink. (The cold process is faster and easier, too.) But the hot process is not without merit, and I can see how its deeper, more intense flavor could be useful in multiple-ingredient drinks such as a Planter’s Punch, to help the pomegranate’s flavor stand a better chance among the other ingredients.

Not to be anticlimactic about it, but both versions are worth trying. The flavor of each is different — fresher, fruitier — from the commercial version, so be prepared for the difference (you can also add a few drops of almond extract, or an ounce of orgeat, to your grenadine, for a not unpleasant variation that hews a bit closer to the flavor of the commercial brands).

73 Responses to Grenadine Face-off

  1. Thanks for the idea of using POM! I didn’t even think of that, and the idea of squeezing pomengranates didn’t sound like fun. I still need to try this out.

  2. JT Paasch says:

    I’ve tried using POM, as well as plain old pomegranate juice from arabic food shops, and as you say, the result is dark and rich. For the cold process, here’s my method to add to the list: I just juice a pomegranate or two (I get about 3 ounces of juice from a pomegranate) and stir in 1 part simple syrup to 3 parts juice. It’s very quick and easy. The color is bright red and the pomegranate taste is very present, which transforms Jack Roses and Bacardi’s into a totally different animal.

  3. erik_flannestad says:

    I think I have some Carlo Pomegranate concentrate at home. Do you think it could be combined with simple syrup to create a passable grenadine?

    Unfortunately, not quite Pomegranate season, yet, so no fresh juice is likely.

    I suppose I could also pick up some Pom wonderful.

    I have some Fee Brother’s American Beauty, and find the extra flavorings they add distract from the pure pomegranate goodness.

  4. Cocktail jen says:

    Perfect timing! I’d just picked up a big pile of liqueur and syrup-making supplies for this week, and Pom was one of them.

  5. DebbilBoy says:

    has anyone out there tried using the pomegranate syrup available in many middle-eastern food stores as a base for grenadine? what were the results?

  6. Recharge says:

    I have been using Sonoma Syrup’s Pomegranate Simple Syrup (http://www.sonomasyrup.com/) that is made with real pomegranate juice. It clearly beats out all other commercial grenadines (Fee’s, Rose’s). I have not made any grenadine at home, but I am looking forward to comparing the homemade version to Sonoma Syrup’s verison!

  7. slkinsey says:

    How about combining the two techniques, comme ceci:

    Reduce two cups of POM to 1/2 cup. Let cool. Add 1/2 cup fresh POM and one cup of superfine sugar. Shake to dissolve, etc.

    Wouldn’t that have both the concentrated flavor of the hot process method and the bright flavor of the cold process method?

  8. Paul says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    JT – I’ll have to try that next time pomegranates are in season.

    Erik – I haven’t tried anything with the pomegranate concentrate, but considering that POM is made from concentrate, I’d say go for it. You may even wind up with something more intensely flavored than the cold process version, but without the cooked taste of the hot version. If you try this, please let me know.

    DebbilBoy – are you referring to pomegranate molasses? A homemade version I found online calls for cooking the pomegranate juice with some sugar and lemon juice until reduced by about 75 percent, so it’s along the same lines. I tried some homemade grenadine last night that was made via cold process, but then had some pomegranate molasses added into it, which made it heavier and thicker, but gave some added complexity to the syrup.

    Recharge – Dr. Cocktail had some good things to say about Sonoma Syrups over at Martini Republic. I’ve been meaning to try their pomegranate version; let us know how your homemade stuff compares.

    slkinsey – good to see you around. I’ll pick up another bottle of POM this weekend and give your suggestion a try.

  9. Recharge says:

    By the way, Williams Sonoma sells the pomegranate Simple Syrup. (The one in the mall in downtwon Seattle also has a vanilla simple syrup.)

  10. erik_flannestad says:

    I did something similar to Sam’s idea above, skipping the reduction step and using Carlo Pomegranate Concentrate instead. Figure, if they just use Pomegranate Concentrate to make Pom, cut out the middle man.

    1 Cup Pomegranate Juice (Knudsen Just Pomegranate)
    1 Cup Sugar
    1/4 Cup Pomegranate Concentrate
    1/4 Cup Vodka

    Combine sugar with juice and shake until dissolved. Add Pomegranate Concentrate and Vodka.

    I’d have to try the other methods above to compare; but, it is very clearly superior to the commercial grenadine I have in my cabinet.

  11. DebbilBoy says:

    i’m still waiting to finish up my bottle of rose’s grenadine before i try making my own. in answer to paul’s query, what i have here is a bottle of “cortas” brand pomegranate concentrated juice, 10 oz./ 300 ml. made in lebanon, ingredients: 100 per cent conentrated pomegranate juice. it appears to be quite thick (i haven’t broken the seal yet.)

    –cz

  12. Anita says:

    Thanks for the idea of using juice as the base for grenadine, rather than pressing the seeds yourself! We made our own using Trader Joe’s juice, and it turned out great. Not sure what I did wrong, as it definitely froze SOLID in the freezer… but I’m sure it will thaw. :D

  13. [...] If you can’t find good grenadine, it’s easy to make your own. Buy a bottle of unsweetened pomegranate juice (Trader Joe’s sells a nice one), heat a cup of it over medium-low heat until it’s reduced by half, and then add sugar to taste — usually about 1/2 cup — and stir until dissolved. Cool before using in cocktails or Shirley Temples. [...]

  14. Paul says:

    Anita–glad it worked out; I’ve had good luck with the Trader Joe’s juice as well, and our mutual friend and acquaintance down at Zig Zag has made a grenadine fortified with a little pomegranate molasses, which deepens the flavor a bit. Now I have even more variations to try…

  15. [...] Ever since I read about “real” grenadine on the Slashfood, I’ve been itching to try it. Lo and behold, I found a bottle in the endcap at my local grocery store. Even though I am morally opposed to impulse buying, I snagged a bottle. At $6 for 12 ounces, it costs about twice as much as Rose’s “fakey” grenadine. A taste test revealed almost no resemblance between the dueling grenadines. But I think both have something to offer. Rose’s grenadine has a stronger candy flavor, and just screams “Roy Rodgers!”. But that certainly has its place. The Stirrings grenadine tasted sharper, with a definite tinge of pomegranate pith. It’s also much less viscous than Rose’s, even though Stirrings includes pectin as a thickener. Although I haven’t tried it, I’d bet money (or yarn) that the “real” grenadine won’t layer as well as the fake stuff, and a bead of grenadine at the bottom of a martini glass is a great visual element. So my verdict is that there is a place for both grenadines in your bar, although “real” grenadine has to be refrigerated after opening, so I’m planning to use it up quickly. Grenadine is an integral component of the El Floridita cocktail, which is kind of odd tasting, but a fun departure from the usual Manhattans and cosmopolitans. And you gotta love a drink with a cherry in it. Next step – homemade grenadine. I’m betting this will turn out to be even better (and cheaper) than my impulse purchase. [...]

  16. Hedonia says:

    A night in Tunisia … or Persia…

    Dinner parties. Dime a dozen. Appies. Salad. Entree. Dessert. Lots of wine. Yawn. There’s nothing wrong with the workaday dinner party — heaven knows we’ve thrown hundreds of them — but sometimes we like to zest things up a bit….

  17. [...] found at Whole Foods) and shook it some more. (Paul, by the way, has a couple of other variants on grenadine recipes on his blog, if you want other [...]

  18. JauntyLush says:

    Good stuff. I’ve come up with a variation: I make both of Paul’s recommended recipes and then mix them together one-to-one. You get the deep dark notes of the cooked version and the brightness of the raw, all in one.

  19. rodney says:

    he i tried a homemade recipe that appeared in imbibe magazine and it is the bomb for a manhattan/or oldfashioned (could be the orane water). it was 2 cups POM 1 cup ultra fine sugar 2 tbsp orange water, 1 oz vodka (as preservitive)- shake like hell and voila, you got homemade grenadine, no cooking or reducition involved.

  20. Paul says:

    Hey Rodney — I’m glad that recipe worked out — that’s my latest version that ran in Imbibe, and I’m quite fond of it, too.

  21. [...] for about 99 cents a piece. They sat in the cabinet for a couple of month, until I came across this article. That jived perfectly well with the fact that I had bought a bottle of POM [...]

  22. Chris says:

    our little specialty grocer now carries a french brand, rieme. i’m going to try making some homemade stuff this weekend & then i’ll try a taste-off with the rieme. i’ll report back soon.

    has anyone tried rieme?

  23. [...] 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into small chunks (mine was 22 oz.) 2 limes, juiced (about a cup of juice) 3/4 cup sugar 2 cups pomegranate juice 1/4 cup homemade grenadine [...]

  24. I have got to get over here more often. Thanks for this Paul!

  25. [...] Hotel Special Cocktail #1 2 oz dry gin 1 oz dry vermouth 2 dashes quality grenadine 1 dash absinthe lemon [...]

  26. Eric says:

    Paul, in your recipe above posted by Rodney, “2 cups POM 1 cup ultra fine sugar 2 tbsp orange water, 1 oz vodka (as preservitive)- shake like hell and voila”

    What exactly is “orange water”. I have found a number of recipes for it online, including: http://recipes.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Orange_Water_Recipe

    Is this what you’re talking about, or is it something that you can just pick up at your local grocery store?

  27. Paul says:

    Eric — I believe Rodney is referring to Orange Flower Water, which is nothing like the stuff made in the recipe in your link. Orange Flower Water is distilled from orange blossoms, and doesn’t taste like oranges at all. You can find it in better-stocked grocery stores, or specialty food stores, especially those with a good Mediterranean section. If all else fails, there’s Amazon. I prefer the French brand Monteaux.

  28. Alex says:

    (OK, this post turned out much longer than I’d imagined it. Please forgive me for babbling!)

    This guide to grenadine has been a fantastic resource! I’ve been making grenadine with the reduction process in the past, but emboldened by your successes, I went ahead and did my own little grenadine face-off, just to see what would really suit me best. I made a batch each of the Cold Process and Hot Process grenadines, and also mixed equal parts of these together for a third variant, as some have suggested above. In the same go, I also decided to try out the process Robert Hess says he uses (in an episode of his online show “The Cocktail Spirit”, the one on the Floridita), which is to cook up a batch of simple syrup (2 cups sugar to 1 cup water) and let this simmer for 30-45 minutes with the seeds of one pomegranate tossed in.

    To start off, I poured up a bit of each type and compared how they looked. The Cold Process type was just the right level of “transparent”, but it’s colour struck me as somewhat dull. The Hot Process type was really dark and heavy-looking; too much so for my liking. The 50/50 mix was only a smidge less dark. Robert’s version was looking gorgeous next to these other three: a bright, transparent ruby red with a hint of pink or purple, still not quite as vibrant as the fake store-bought stuff, but nearly there. Some bits of thin membrane (from the pomegranate seeds) were still floating in it, which makes me think I ought to have strained it better.

    Then for the taste test, sipping the grenadine straight and mixed with water. The Cold Process type had indeed the freshest, brightest flavour, but was maybe lacking a little “Oomph!” in it’s role as a syrup. The Hot Process type was richer and sweeter, but the “cooked” flavour of it did bother me. Given a choice, it’s just not the kind of thing I’d like to put in a fresh, sunny Tiki-style drink or something like that. The 50/50 mix had (unsurprisingly) a little of both of the aforementioned flavours, which some might find the perfect solution. I still didn’t like the presence of the cooked flavour, though. Now, as for Robert’s version, I’m sad to say I found it disappointing. It was really thick and “syrupy”, and the pomegranate flavour was very withdrawn. In fact, I’m not sure I tasted the pomegranate at all. Prostrate apologies to Robert if he’s reading this! :)

    Currently, the Cold Process has me enamoured with it’s fruity freshness. I’m still meaning to test each mixed in a cocktail, and layered with orange juice (to see how they “bounce”, for drinks like the Tequila Sunrise). If I get around to these things, I might post my results here again. Unless I’m being a bother, posting overly long comments to other people’s blogs… :)

  29. Solis says:

    Just came back from Mexico and had a tequlia shot with a shot of sangrita made with tomato juice, fresh orange juice, lime juice, grenedine, tabasco sauce, maggi, worchester sauce and salt and pepper. To die for…

  30. Solis says:

    Tequila!!

  31. Katie Loeb says:

    My best homemade grenadine has always been a combo of hot and cold method. I also add just a tiny little bit of orange flower water at the end to add a bit of subtle floral essence and complexity.

  32. Tim S. says:

    Is it super important to use Pomegranate juice to produce grenadine? I imagine one could make a simple syrup out of water and sugar, but also boil in some fresh pomegranate. I make ginger syrup this way, and it is always very tasty.

  33. [...] post info By Michael Korcuska Categories: Uncategorized Tags: bourbon, cocktails, grenadine, pomegranate My son has been sick the last couple of days and wanted some juice. We were out of everything but, oddly, pomegranate juice (a small Odwalla bottle). Not sweet enough for the little guy, so I added a bit of Rose’s grenadine to it. Then I thought, isn’t real grenadine made from pomegranate juice? And I found some good information on The Cocktail Chronicles Blog. [...]

  34. [...] started our studies and based our recipes on a great post from Paul at The Cocktail Chronicles.  Paul discusses two primary methods for the production of Grenadine.  The first being a cold [...]

  35. [...] are a couple of other recipes for grenadine at Cocktail Chronicles, neither of which call for orange flower water. To find orange flower water, look in Middle [...]

  36. [...] making Grenadine and was gladdened to see a write-up by someone I knew and trusted, Paul Clarke at The Cocktail Chronicles. He presents both a cold process Grenadine and a cooked version. I made both. I’ll let you [...]

  37. [...] found a couple of helpful posts on this topic, such as this one at the Cocktail Chronicles. The recipe that worked best for me is as [...]

  38. [...] found a couple of helpful posts on this topic, such as this one at the Cocktail Chronicles. The recipe that worked best for me is as [...]

  39. Courgette says:

    I’m wild about the “Grenade” syrup made by Routin 1883, a French firm. I’d read about it somewhere, and tracked it down at a coffee wholesaler here in Minneapolis. Having tried (and detested) Rose’s and Fee’s (which I’d harassed a local liquor store into bringing in), I was astonished by the depth and richness of the flavor. The only problem with this stuff is that you want to eat it with a spoon.

    I had tried making my own grenadine, like many of the folks above– using the “hot” method. I cooked it way too long, and not only was it very thick, it (naturally) had a caramelized flavor– not at all the right quality for what we want grenadine for!

    Having discovered Routin, though, I wouldn’t go back to homemade, and I never thought I’d say that about any foodstuff.

  40. Connor says:

    I tried making my own version based on a mix of recipes I’ve read here and elsewhere. After a couple of batches, I settled on the idea of using a partially cooked, partially fresh version using Alton Brown’s Pomegranate Syrup recipe I came across:

    Take 1 bottle of Trader Joe’s Pomegranate Juice (4 cups)

    Cook two cups of it, plus 1/4 cup Wholesome Sweeteners Evaporated Cane Juice Organic Sugar over medium-low heat to reduce to 3/4 cup.

    Add 2 cups of the same sugar and stir until dissolved.

    Pour back into the original bottle with remaining 2 cups pomegranate juice, plus 3 oz 105 proof vodka, 2 tsp each rose flower water and orange flower water, and 1 tsp high-quality vanilla extract, and shake like hell- lid on, of course.

    Made for a great Scofflaw Cocktail- a drink my g.f. really likes- with bourbon for the whiskey and everything else dialed back to 1/4 oz or so each.

    Honestly, I tried to use Cherry Heering as my baseline for a comparison of sweetness and complexity. Maybe not the right choice, but I think my next batch I’ll use a 3 to 1 mix of pomegranate to cherry juice.

  41. [...] The Cocktail Chronicles » Grenadine Face-offLast week I cozied up in my kitchen with a couple of bottles of POM pomegranate juice and a bag of sugar, and set out to determine which process makes the better grenadine.(recipes cocktails ) [...]

  42. [...] up for Tiki month, I made a batch each of Paul’s hot process and cold process grenadines. (Recipes here, at Cocktail Chronicles) I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Pom does not reconstitute its juice at natural [...]

  43. [...] your best bet is to make it yourself using pomegranate juice and sugar. It’s incredibly easy; check over here for more [...]

  44. [...] syrupy, and had no actual  pomegranate juice in it.  Had we the time, we should have made our own grenadine, which is quite easy now that Pom juice is so widely available.  Nevertheless, this cocktail [...]

  45. We’re currently looking at stocking the syrups in our online store, but I love the recipes for both the cold & hot versions and will be sure to add them to our site too… Personally, I prefer the cold recipe (personal preference though I guess).

  46. [...] 1 cup Sugar – 1/4 cup (you can add more sugar if you wish. I have seen combinations of 2 cups of juice to 1 cup of sugar, courtesy Cocktail Chronicles) Passion Fruit Juice – 1/2 cup Pineapple Juice – 1/2 cup Lemon Juice – 1/2 of [...]

  47. Tarko says:

    Personally, as someone with access to fresh pomegranates, I would try to warn you off the reconstituted concentrate. It’s pretty awful–think of making a margarita with concentrated lime juice instead of the real thing.

    Get some real pomegranates, wherever you can, and cold-process them.

    You will find that it’s an entirely new universe of flavor, comparatively.

    The Monkey Gland cocktail in particular benefits from this and fresh orange juice, with a dash of (as originally intended) absinthe.

    Tarko

  48. [...] it in a tequila-variation on a Jack Rose, made to test out my new, homemade grenadine (using the hot process method).  The cocktail turned out very well, mostly, I believe, due to my new grenadine.  But, you know, [...]

  49. [...] it in a tequila-variation on a Jack Rose, made to test out my new, homemade grenadine (using the hot process method).  The cocktail turned out very well, mostly, I believe, due to my new grenadine.  But, you know, [...]

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