No, The Primary Flavor In Grenadine Isn't Cherry

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If you've thus far been living under the presumption that grenadine was cherry-flavored, we totally get why. Shirley Temples, tequila sunrises, and rum punches are bright, cherry red, and often even served with cherries. But it's simply not the case — real grenadine comes from pomegranates.


This misconception dates back at least more than a century. The USDA pursued a case in 1912 — the United States v. Thirty Cases of Grenadine Syrup — which aimed to crack down on producers selling grenadine syrup that contained no pomegranate. The USDA alleged the producer was adulterating and mislabeling their grenadine to mislead consumers. The government ultimately dismissed the case, but the effort highlighted that particular gap in consumer knowledge — that grenadine, linguistically and actually, initially referred to the juice of pomegranate seeds. 

But a hundred-plus years hence, it seems the demand for bonafide grenadine is something the government prefers to leave in the hands of consumers. Despite its fruity origins, many popular grenadine brands contain no pomegranate juice. One brand, Rose's Grenadine Syrup contains high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, sodium citrate, red 40, natural and artificial flavors, and blue 1 in its ingredient list; no pomegranate to be found. So why is it that this product can be called grenadine? 


Grenadine's origin story

Traditionally, grenadine was made from pomegranate juice, sugar, pomegranate molasses, and occasionally, citrus or orange flower water, resulting in a dark, purplish-red hue and tart flavor. Its initial use may have been for masking the taste of medicines, but this concoction eventually made its way into the realm of cocktails. One notable cocktail that helped establish grenadine's role in mixology is the Jack Rose, a combination of apple brandy, lemon juice, and grenadine, which rose to popularity in the early 1900s. 


Since an FDA ruling in 1995, the convention of using a blend of other fruit juices and sugar syrups rather than actual pomegranate was given official authorization. To quote from the guideline, "No objection has been made, therefore, to the use of the name 'Grenadine' on a syrup containing a mixture of fruit juices which has a characteristic grenadine flavor and color." It further points out that while black currant is one way to approximate pomegranate flavor, producers are permitted to achieve the flavor and signature color, as long as any spices, flavorings, or colorings used are disclosed.

Making grenadine shine in your drinks

If you're looking for classic grenadine while shopping, it's still out there. Look for products that list real pomegranate juice as an ingredient (like this one by Liber & Co). Making your own grenadine at home is straightforward too. Heat pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat. Add expressed orange peels, let them infuse as the mixture cools, then remove the peels and store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (You can use a similar process to create your own infused simple syrups too.) Sophisticated cocktails like the Pink Lady benefit from the pomegranate flavor found in this type of grenadine.


However, if you're whipping up drinks where pomegranate flavor isn't the focus, or you need a vibrant color, a standard — imitation grenadine, let's call it — will work just fine. Classic mocktails like the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers combine a splash of grenadine with soda (lemon-lime soda and cola, respectively) and garnish with a cherry to make a refreshing and sweet treat. In the cocktail world, tequila sunrises, rum punches, and rum runners all benefit from the tartness, sweetness, and vibrant color of grenadine. Whether you go for the pomegranate original or the typical bright red stuff, grenadine pairs well with a range of cocktails and mocktails alike.