Put any thoughts about Tequila Sunrises or Rose’s artificially colored high-fructose syrup out of your mind — if you thought you knew grenadine, it’s time to revisit this rich, tart pomegranate syrup and learn why using real pomegranate juice makes this an invaluable cocktail staple.
Pomegranates have been prevalent in Europe for centuries and in the U.S. since the 1800s, though the fruit never really became a part of the culture here. Not so in France, where grenadine is a fixture for most children, served for special occasions or while adults sip a predinner aperitif. For cocktails in Europe, the adoption of grenadine as a syrup was a natural progression, often serving as a replacement for raspberry syrup in recipes. Eventually that substitution made its way to the U.S., with one of the earliest and most well-known uses in cocktails being the Jack Rose, made with applejack, grenadine and lime.
The key to achieving the right tartness and flavor, not to mention healthfulness, with grenadine is to make a homemade syrup. It sounds complicated, but instead of juicing the kernels, this is probably one of the few occasions when using bottled juice, such as POM, works just as well. Adding a pomegranate molasses brings depth of flavor, while orange water and sugar season and sweeten. After being married through a little heat, the syrup is cocktail-ready and able to stand out against other ingredients. Too much heat or boiling down can lead to more raisiny notes, which, while not as pure, some may enjoy and can bring complexity to the glass.
A delicious, lesser-known variation on the Jack Rose is the Pan-American Clipper, which essentially adds a float of absinthe. Stepping into Brooklyn’s the Richardson — a “proper American bar” as they describe it — the house grenadine finds its way into several of the bar’s unpretentious, classic drinks. With the right balance, a good three-ingredient drink can be more complex and satiating than one would expect, even when made with grenadine.
Pan American Clipper
Servings: 1 cocktail
1½ ounces bonded applejack
¾ ounce grenadine*
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
Rinse of absinthe
For the grenadine syrup:
- Combine 2 cups POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, 2 cups sugar, 6 teaspoons pomegranate molasses and 1 teaspoon orange blossom water.
- In a pot or in the microwave, warm juice, but do not boil, to allow other ingredients to blend together.
- Add in sugar, molasses and orange blossom water. Stir and allow to cool. Add vodka to fortify and store for up to 1 month.
- Combine ingredients (except absinthe) into a cocktail shaker and add ice.
- Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
- Garnish with several dashes of absinthe and an apple fan (optional).