So I have been following, with a mixture of horror and admiration, a thread on a certain internet forum called Stomping Through the Savoy. The Savoy in question is The Savoy Cocktail Book, a fascinating manual full of cocktails from the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. The most interesting aspect of these drinks is that they are all, without exception, utterly undrinkable garbage.
OK, OK, I am exaggerating. There are a few good drinks in there, but many of them are perfectly horrid. The interesting part, for me, is reading the thread’s protagonist explain how he makes the cocktails, many of which have outdated or hard to get ingredients. One of the items that keeps coming up is “homemade grenadine.”
I’d picked up a bottle of Rose’s grenadine recently, and made the mistake of not looking at it closely until I got home, at which point I realized I had paid for a mixer made with corn syrup, which I won’t serve to people I like. So the idea of homemade grenadine appealed to me.
Grenadine is named after the French word for pomegranate, which is “grenade” (the explosive, needless to say, was named after the fruit, not vice-versa). Paleolithic grenadines were simply pomegranate juice and sugar, made into a syrup.
There are, essentially, two schools of thought in making grenadine at home. The first school recommends combining pomegranate juice and sugar, and then reducing on the stove until it is a syrup. The second school thinks that the first school has a little too much time on their hands, and instead recommends just mixing pomegranate juice with sugar, shaking really hard, and then calling it a day, preferably with a stiff drink. Some recipes call for a touch of lemon juice, as well. There are tradeoffs, allegedly, to each version: the cooked version has a deeper color and a more complex flavor, while the cold version tastes fresher and more fruity.
So of course, I tried to make both.
Now, I say “tried” because I have this problem. I fancy myself a pretty good cook and an adequate baker. I can make great bread from scratch. I understand eggs, and can make an awesome custard without breaking a sweat. I know how to not overcook fish, and meat. But I’ve never, never, never been able to get the hang of sugar. Sugar eludes me.
Which is why when I tried to cook down the grenadine into a nice syrup, I overshot and ended up with soft ball pomegranate candy.
The taste is actually pretty fabulous: my co-conspirator and I sat there tasting and retasting it, trying to pin down why exactly we were both convinced we had tasted this precise flavor before. We eventually decided that the taste evoked the old Smith Brothers soft cherry cough drop. Deep, almost musty, and not at all cloying.
It was pretty good. Not usable in mixing drinks, mind you, but I do still have the “cold” grenadine for that, which seems to serve nicely (and, between you and me, was a lot less trouble).
Now I have a bottle of soft-ball pomegranate candy in my refrigerator. Which brings up the question: what interesting things can I do with it?