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Courtesy of Clio
For many, “grenadine” conjures memories of fluorescent and syrupy sweet Shirley Temples or the saccharin flavors of a Tequila Sunrise, but bartenders are now righting the syrup’s reputation by making their own, nuanced grenadines in-house.
The name comes from grenades, the French word for the pomegranates, which were juiced and mixed with sugar to create the vibrantly red fruit-based syrup that became a popular addition to pre-Prohibition cocktails. Today’s commercial products have little in common with the original. “Grenadine as a kid was really not grenadine—that stuff was basically sugar water with red dye in it,” says Todd Maul, the head bartender at star chef Ken Oringer's Clio restaurant in Boston. Maul, like many detail-oriented mixologists, makes grenadine from scratch. His recipe is simple: equal parts sugar and Pom (because “it would be crushingly awful to juice a pomegranate”) that's lightly flavored with orange flower and rose water.
Maul notes that fake grenadine has been around almost as long as the bar essential itself, quoting Gentleman’s Companion to Food and Liquor, a classic cocktail book published in 1939: "No bar regardless of its modesty can be without it. Don’t be fooled by inferior American imitations of the real thing, be sure to get the imported.”
“Homemade grenadine is a much better ingredient,” Maul says. “It adds flavor, and it also adds viscosity.” He uses grenadine in many drinks on Clio’s menu but only sparingly. “It’s a back-up singer, not a lead,” he explains. His # Tres cocktail spotlights grenadine both for flavor and aesthetic: cachaça, lime juice, Lillet Blonde and triple sec are mixed together; when the grenadine is added, it sinks to the bottom for a colorful layered effect.
Bastille Café & Bar, Seattle The first drink that bar manager Eric Carlson created for Bastille was the bitter Hawksmoor Cup: Beefeater gin, muddled cucumber, amaro, lime, sparkling wine and house-made grenadine. His recipe combines R.W. Knudson pomegranate juice, evaporated cane juice and pomegranate molasses for body. The syrup also stars in the alcohol-free Daisy #2, a mature cousin to the Shirley Temple that's made with lime, grapefruit and seltzer.
Oldfield’s Liquor Room, Los Angeles Named for the first man to ever drive a car 60 miles per hour, the bar also creates cocktails inspired by Berna Eli “Barney” Oldfield’s life. The No. 999, made with Ardberg Scotch, fresh lemon and house grenadine, takes its name from the car that Oldfield bought from Henry Ford before starting his career in racing.
The Drawing Room, Chicago The subterranean bar has been making grenadine from day one. When he first started, bar manager Charles Joly used pomegranate juice, but he switched to pomegranate molasses imported from the Mediterranean, which he says is not only more cost-effective (since you’re not paying for water) but also better maintains the pomegranate’s integrity. The Avenue, a rarely seen classic cocktail revived by Joly, is made with the tart grenadine, Banker’s Club rum, calvados, sweet passion fruit and orange flower water.
Black Birch, Kittery, ME This small town bar embraces urban cocktail techniques and trends. The house grenadine, made with pomegranate juice, star anise and lemon zest, is used in the whiskey sour–like 2 Govt. Named after the bar’s address, the drink blends the syrup with Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon, muddled orange peel, sugar and aromatic bitters.
‘inoteca liquori, New York In early April, the boozy annex to Jason Denton's sleek Italian restaurant ‘inoteca introduced the floral and complex Smoked Sorrel cocktail: Sombra mezcal, house-made grenadine, lemon juice, hibiscus, juniper berries and grains of paradise (a peppery African spice) sweetened with Demerara sugar.