I can’t speak for all guys out there, but I generally steer clear of grenadine when I’m at the bar, and I don’t think I’m alone. The last thing I want in my liquor is a shot of high fructose corn syrup, sodium glutamate, and red 40 dye – and I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way. Luckily, one of those people is an enterprising barman by the name of Brooks Reitz, and not only does he have an aversion to modern grenadine, he also has the knowledge and talent to make it better.
You see, grenadine wasn’t always the syrupy, sugar-laden concoction we’re used to today. Originally, it was made from pomegranates – the name grenadine is actually derived from the spanish word for pomegranate, grenada. But thanks to the advent of high-fructose corn syrup, the age-old recipe has been bastardized and become so detached from its origins that it bears almost no resemblance to its original flavor. Reitz wanted to change that.
“Grenadine was the next natural step for us because of the goal/philosophy of the company,” he tells us. “Our driving goal is to picture our great-grandfather’s bar cabinet – take stock of what ingredients are there – and to resurrect them for a modern audience. Specifically, we are taking staples of the American bar that have been neglected over many years, and remaking them with an eye for detail and production, in hopes that guys like you and I might like them. Grenadine was a natural next step because it has been around so long but has been neglected. We are returning it to it’s classic form, and hope to reintroduce it as a very important ingredient behind any great bar.”
Bringing grenadine back from the dead was no easy task, though. Pomegranates are hard to find in Reitz’s home state of South Carolina, so he had to look elsewhere for the ingredients. After a bit of hunting, he found a small family farm in California that grows and presses pomegranates, and then sells the juice to candlemakers and perfumeries. Initially they had no experience making food products, but after a year of conversations with Reitz they worked out the kinks in the process and Jack Rudy Small Batch Grenadine was born.
Truth be told, I hadn’t tried the stuff until just this past weekend, but the first taste blew my mind. All I can say is be warned before you try it. It looks like regular grenadine, but the flavor is tart, bright, and almost tropical – so vastly different from today’s version of grenadine that immediately following your first gulp you’ll be filled with a horrible sense of injustice. How did we ever let this recipe die?
You can head over to the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. website to get a bottle for yourself, and if you’re already fantasizing about what drinks to make when you do, we’ve got you covered. We asked Reitz what his favorite grenadine cocktails are, and here’s what he recommends: