I had an excellent Jack Rose cocktail last night at a bar. Like many of the great classics, it has just three ingredients: applejack, lemon juice, and grenadine. It was so good that I thought to myself, why don’t I make this at home more often? It had a great balance between sweet and sour and it maintained both the apple flavor of the applejack and the citrus flavor of the lemon juice.
So when I got home from the bar, I made one. It wasn’t as good, and I figure there were two potential causes: first, the issue of proportion, and second, the grenadine. I was using Rose’s grenadine, which is very widely available and has been for a very long time. Was this part of the problem?
Grenadine is supposed to be a sweet syrup made from pomegranates, but Rose’s is all high frutose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and red dye now. Fortunately, there are some alternatives. One is to hunt down higher-quality grenadines–cocktail blogger Kara Newman suggested the one created by the guys who run the New York bar, Employees Only. Fee Brothers, which makes bitters, also has a grenadine.
But the easiest and most rewarding way to get a good grenadine may be to make it yourself as you would simple syrup. Epicurious.com, the web portal for Bon Apetit and Gourmet magazines, has a recipe from Audrey Saunders, the owner of New York’s Pegu Club:
6 ounces unsweetened pomegranate juice
3 ounces superfine sugar
Bring juice to simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat and add sugar, stirring constantly until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate syrup until cold, about 30 minutes. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled.)
The Cocktail Chronicles favors David Wondrich’s super simple method: put a cup each of sugar and pomegrenate juice in jar and shake till dissolved. Add one or two ounces of sugar, shake again, and you’re done. The Chronicles notes that it’s not as dark red as commercial grenadines, and that you may need to use a bit more than recipes call for.
If you look around, there are other recipes out there but it’s hard to beat those two easy hot and cold methods.