While this is a topic that has been covered by pretty much every cocktail blog under the sun, I haven’t yet written about it. Why? Well, for one, I’m lazy and never got around to it. But after having made various versions of grenadine for years at my bars and after doing a little research on the web recently, I’ve wondered if the topic of homemade grenadine couldn’t use a little revisit.
There are a few key problems with a lot of the house-made grenadines out there. The first issue you can see immediately: the color is all wrong. Grenadine isn’t brown, and the good stuff, the real grenadine won’t make your El Presidente look like mud. Grenadine also isn’t pale pink, and it shouldn’t turn your Jack Rose grey. Grenadine is a vibrant shade of magenta, a rich syrup that brightens every cocktail it touches with its sweet, slightly tart, beautifully bright, rich, deep and lightly floral flavors.
A lot of grenadines call for an inordinate amount of work for very little payoff. This recipe is going to take you all of five minutes to prepare and – I promise you – will taste better than anything else you can buy in the stores. Because if there are two things you really need to know about me, it’s the following: I’m lazy and I like stuff that tastes good.
Some recipes are going to tell you you need to remove each individual seed from the pomegranate (a long, painful and finger-stainingly messy process) and either simmer them in water over heat or steep them in water overnight to extract the juice. I’ll tell you what, you want to extract the juice from a pomegranate? Do what I do: cut that puppy open like a grapefruit and press it with your juicer. Done and done. And the resulting juice is far more intense and flavorful than anything you’re going to get from those other methods that employ a bunch of water, believe me.
So now that you’ve got a bunch of fresh pomegranate juice – each full fruit should yield approximately one cup of juice – it’s time to turn it into grenadine. Many of the recipes you’ll see out there are going to tell you to boil the juice until it’s reduced by half, under the guise of concentrating the rich, fresh flavor of the pomegranate. I find this to be an unnecessary, time-consuming process that results in an end product that’s about as delicious as boiled orange juice. My solution is to heat the juice just enough to melt sugar, well below the point of boiling. You’ll still retain the fresh flavor of the pomegranate without having to do all the work of a cold-process grenadine, an ordeal that requires ten minutes of shaking until the sugar is dissolved.
You can do this in a small saucepan, but I just throw it in the microwave for a minute or two, because that’s exactly what microwaves are good for.
Heat your juice up and stir in an equal amount of unbleached sugar. I start with two cups of juice and dissolve two cups of sugar into it, stirring until the mixture is clear. Now what you’ve got is a pomegranate syrup, but not quite yet grenadine. The next step will add the depth of flavor you’re looking for, and for this you’re going to need to make a trip to your local Mediterranean or Latin American market for pomegranate molasses and orange blossom water. I add two ounces of the molasses and a teaspoon of the orange blossom water to my warm mix and stir again until everything is dissolved.
The only step left is to add one ounce of vodka – if you like – this is an optional preservative. If you’re not planning on using your grenadine pretty quickly, like over the span of a month, then add it. But if you’re serving it in a bar and plan on going through it pretty quickly, like I do, then you can just skip it.
Heat juice slightly, just enough to allow other ingredients to dissolve easily. Stir in remaining ingredients, allow to cool, and bottle.