It was a month ago that I last posted here, and it simultaneously feels like a day and a year. In many ways, things are better. My life has started to even back out, and writing has begun to feel less daunting. I published my first piece on Umami about my trip to Cuba last year, and have articles for several other publications in the works. So despite being broker than I've ever been in my life, I think things are starting to come together. We'll see where I'm at another month from now...
But let's talk about grenadine! Do you even know what grenadine is? Because I only learned recently. I always assumed it was basically the same thing as maraschino juice, the electric red kind you find behind a not-very-well-stocked bar. But it isn't! Grenadine is actually made from pomegranate juice, and is a staple in tiki drinks. It's kind of like a simple syrup that replaces the water with tart, red juice. Pomegranate juice on its own is very sour, and so the addition of sugar makes it infinitely more palatable, while reducing it down to a syrup gives more body and texture to drinks.
So how did something made from a relatively obscure ingredient become a bar necessity? Camper English over at Alcademics sorted through old recipe books, trying to figure out just when grenadine made its way into the bar scene. It seems that this ingredient started popping up in recipes in the United States and France around the 1890s, and by the 1910s it was everywhere. It was often used interchangeably with raspberry syrup in drinks like the Clover Club, or as an addition to non-alcoholic drinks like lemonade or ginger ale.
Where grenadine has really established its legacy, though, is in tiki drinks. Cocktails like the Zombie, Hurricane, and Planter's Punch all require this ingredient to bring some tartness and lightness to sweet, sometimes-heavy flavors like pineapple and coconut. Pomegranate blends right in with the rest of these tropical ingredients, and is essential in creating a well-made, balanced drink.
I think I can be forgiven for not really having a handle on what grenadine is, though, because commercial grenadine for the most part really is grossly sweet and weird. Luckily, making your own is super easy, so now you can have it on hand to add some tropical flair to any drink at any time. (Fun fact about grenadine: it's denser than most other cocktail ingredients, so if you add it in at the end, you get a pretty swirling effect as it sinks to the bottom.)
Kyle is lucky enough to have a pomegranate tree in his yard (California is ridiculous), but if you're one of the 99% of people who doesn't have fruit trees in their vicinity, you can use unsweetened store-bought juice.
Recipe from the Kitchn
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup 100% unsweetened pomegranate juice
- 1/2 lemon (optional)
In a sauce pan or skillet, combine the sugar and juice. Place over medium heat on the stovetop. Stir to help the sugar dissolve. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool. Taste and add a few drops of lemon juice to bring out the tartness, if necessary. Pour into a bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
I hesitate to even call this a recipe, but it's a quick, easy drink that you can make with your new favorite ingredient if you're not in the mood for an intricate tiki cocktail.
- 2 oz rum
- Ginger beer
- Splash of grenadine
- Lime wedge
Pour rum into a tall glass over ice. Top with ginger beer. Add grenadine to watch the swirl. Garnish with lime.