You might think you know what grenadine is, but you probably don’t. For years, I thought it was that neon red, cherry-flavored syrup that you can buy in any grocery store in America.
Nope. Grenadine is actually a sweet-tart syrup made from pomegranate juice and sugar. It should be a rich, deep magenta color, it shouldn’t taste like “cherries,” and it definitely shouldn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it.
That doesn’t mean I never use Rose’s, the ubiquitous brand mentioned above. I do — in my kids’ Shirley Temples. If you make one using the real stuff, it just doesn’t taste right. (They don’t think it tastes right, anyway.)
But I don’t use it in cocktails. It’ll give you a nice, bright color, but that’s about it. The flavor is all wrong. You’re better off leaving it out altogether than putting it in your drink.
And that would be a shame, because grenadine is great stuff. It was a common ingredient in the pre-Prohibition era, and shows up in many classic cocktails, including the Jack Rose, El Presidente, Mary Pickford, and Bacardi Cocktail. It even adds a grace note to the Zombie.
You can make your own grenadine — here’s a recipe that isn’t too challenging. Or you can buy some of the good stuff.
Here are some brands that I recommend. They cost a little more and can be a little harder to find. But it’s worth the effort.
*I haven’t tried the Employees Only grenadine. But given its provenance — Employees Only is one of the world’s great cocktail bars — I still feel confident in listing it.