Finding a good grenadine

Like maraschino cherries, modern grenadine isn’t what it used to be. The original product was colored and flavored with pomegranate juice. These days, it tends to be high-fructose corn syrup colored with FD&C Red #40, and flavored with … well, flavored with not much of anything, to be honest (my bottle of Giroux “Premium Quality” Grenadine Syrup also mentions citric acid, sodium benzoate and “natural fruit flavors”). It doesn’t add anything to a cocktail except color and a cloying sweetness.

Stirrings has a pomegranate grenadine, but it’s not a good substitute. It does contain real pomegranate, but it isn’t red enough to give your drink any more than an anemic salmon tinge, and, although I hate to say this, it isn’t sweet enough. Drink recipes that call for grenadine take the sweetness into consideration, and if you use a product that’s a lot less sweet, the drink won’t be any good. I’ve tried increasing the amount, but haven’t been able to come up with a solution that’s right. And even with double the amount, Stirrings grenadine, though a nice product in its own right, won’t color the drink properly.

Fortunately, I’ve found a solution. Monin pomegranate syrup! This is available at the fancier grocery stores like Whole Foods, among other places. It’s intensely red in color. You can tell it’s in there by looking at the drink. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. And it adds a delicious hint of pomegranate flavor, which will usually go very nicely with whatever drink you’ve added it to (assuming it’s a drink that calls for grenadine, that is; I wouldn’t go adding it to your dry martini).

Unlike Giroux “Premium Grenadine Syrup”, Monin contains actual pomegranate juice along with the natural flavors and citric acid. So does Stirrings, for that matter. I’m not sure why the flavor and color of Monin syrup are so much better; maybe Monin concentrates their fruit juice more. Another thing that Monin and Stirrings have in common is the use of real sugar, from sugar cane, instead of corn syrup. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that sugar tastes better than corn syrup (people who swear by Kosher for Passover Coca-Cola, for instance). Though in Giroux’s case, I suspect the disappointing taste has more to do with the lack of anything approximating real fruit, than with high-fructose corn syrup.

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