I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a pomegranate. I was in the fourth grade, and my teacher, eschewing the state curriculum of California history in favor of Greek mythology (among other topics such as Hobbits and Gnomes—this was the 1970s, people), brought in a pomegranate to share the seeds with the class. She explained the it was the “fruit of the dead” to the Ancient Greeks. My mother was ready for me to join the ranks of the dead because of the unforgivable stains all over my clothes when I returned home, but I never stopped thinking about those delicious little juicy seeds.
I thought about them over the years, but apparently not deeply enough. Because—I’m dating myself again—when I started tending bar, grenadine was a red, artificially colored and flavored syrup made by the Rose’s company, famous for their lime cordial. It never occurred to me, or pretty much anyone else, that real grenadine is made from the fresh juice of a pomegranate. A quick web search will reveal millennia of etymological links between the pomegranate and grenadine. We had no excuse for not knowing.
But now we live in a magical time—no, not of Hobbits and Gnomes, sadly—where we’ve forsaken our old artificial cocktail ingredients for fresh versions. It’s doubly magical during these months that pomegranates are available to us in our local grocery stores. But the optimal season for them is about to come to a close in February and not return until the fall, so it’s time to act. It’s time to make some pomegranate syrup (grenadine) to preserve the fruit’s amazing flavor for our cocktails until September rolls around again. Get your ass to the store. Now.
You back now? Got the fruit? Listen, don’t overthink how you’re going to get the juice out of those tiny seeds. Go on and do another web search, and listen to so-called experts regale you with techniques involving wooden spoons, rolling pins, Ziplock bags, and a myriad of other tools. But if you’re the cocktail-minded reader, you already have the only tool you need: a citrus juicer. Simply cut the fruit along its equator, slap it in the juicer, and press out that beautiful rose-colored juice.
All that’s really left is to touch it up with a little sugar and add a couple other things for some depth. Because making cocktails and cocktail ingredients is like making music: One note is never enough, you need some bass and some trebble. Enter pomegranate molasses and orange blossom water. The molasses (available at any market specializing in Middle Eastern foods) and orange blossom water (likewise) will pull out those pomegranate flavors and make your syrup more… pomegranatey.
And as an added bonus, you can freeze the stuff and defrost it mid-summer when you’re really craving a Jack Rose.
• 2 c.fresh pomegranate juice (approximately two large pomegranates)
• 2 c.sugar
• 2 oz. pomegranate molasses
• 1 tsp. orange blossom water
Heat juice and sugar in a small saucepan, just enough to allow sugar to dissolve easily. Do not boil. Stir in remaining ingredients, allow to cool, and bottle.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
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