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The Fruit of the Dead

Isle of the Dead

OK, so you’re dead, and Charon is ferrying you across the river Styx to your new digs on the Isle of the Dead. Kinda thirsty? Have we got the thing for you! It’s pomegranate, the official Olympic Committee-sanctioned Fruit of the Dead, and hoo hah it’s popular.

Pom, the newish juice wunderkind has given good old morbid moribund pomegranates a new lease on death, errr…life. Suddenly the pomegranate is cool, and we see this reflected in products and marketing, thanks to Pom.

What you may not know, if you are woefully undereducated, is that the great classic use of pomegranates for at least the last couple hundred years is in grenadine. In fact, the word “grenadine” is French diminutive for “pomegranate” like “Yo! The Pomster!”

Now, if you feel you are experiencing a cultural disconnect, your Doctor is not surprised. You thought they’d taken all the surplus cheap cough syrup at the bottom of the vat (not the good druggy kind) and bottled it with a grenadine label. Of course you did. Almost all grenadines of current manufacture contain little if any real pomegranate juice or syrup. Some of the better ones like Fee Brothers American Beauty Grenadine contain a commercially produced pomegranate extract, but the popular-by-default Rose’s Grenadine contains no pomegranate at all; they told me.

Given this state of affairs, there’s little question why grenadine is considered merely a sweet colorant for chick drinks. Of course, with the phoenix-like ascension of Pom, you can just imagine what nifty things are happening in the grenadine industry can’t you? You can’t? That’s because NOTHING is happening. Oh, Sonoma Syrup Company is producing a wonderful “pomegranate simple syrup,” and it and they are definitely up-and-coming. What makes this not a grenadine? Honey doll, you’ve got me. Maybe the grenadine moniker has been so devalued by crap that the name has no value anymore, or maybe Sonoma just wants the name to tie into all their other syrup products. Regardless, theirs is my current choice for quality cocktails calling for grenadine – and these cocktails stand proudest with real tart/sweet pomegranate flavor. To this I might add that Angostura makes a grenadine with real pomegranate flavor which is semi-hard to find, and that Trader Vic’s makes a very passable one also. These and Fee Brothers are all quite acceptable (unlike Rose’s or the local bar brand) but the Sonoma product is a cut above, cowardly naming convention or not.

To test it in a real drink (as opposed to the ones merely requiring a sweet colorant) try a Jack Rose.

1-1/2 oz. Applejack
Juice of 1/2 a lime (say about 3/4 oz.)
And 2 or 3 dashes of Sonoma “don’t call me grenadine” pomegranate simple syrup.
Shake in an iced cocktail shaker
Strain into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass.

Now that is good.

As I said, despite grenadine’s exile from the party, pomegranate is the new kicky thing, so when I received a liquor company offering of a box set of Pama, a red pomegranate liqueur in a sleek designer bottle nestled in red confetti beside a red cocktail shaker, well, I was excited as one can get over pomegranates. I mean years ago they used to put about 1.5 to 3% alcohol in some grenadines and that’s what you’d call preservative-strength alcohol. Maybe, just maybe they were taking the next logical step and making a grenadine liqueur, as it were. That is, until I read the cover letter. Pomegranate liqueur, blended with “imported Tequila and super-premium Vodka.” I immediately wanted to triangulate my way to any handy vomit bags.

Well. Twas only fair to taste it. It….was good. It was good just like I would hope a grenadine liqueur would be. Note well, marketing staff – note well brand managers…it was good in spite of the Tequila and the vodka (the flavors of which were entirely undetectable.) Ergo, except for bragging rights they could’ve saved their vodka/Tequila money, used grain neutral spirits (which is exactly what vodka is, minus a little charcoal filtration) and sunk their money into a mammoth product launch. It’s 34 proof. Water, and sugar will smooth those rough edges.

Note to brain trust: Look. At. Pom. As is, the money line is and will be: “This pomegranate liqueur is honestly pomegranate-flavored, well balanced, and persuasively packaged. It ought to be a hit and I recommend it as an alternative to grenadine in drinks that call for that.” Mainly, combining winning trends may sound good in a meeting but be wasteful in what you need to accomplish for your product. As is, when it appears in limited release you should try it. You could probably even cut Sonoma Syrup’s Pomegranate Simple Syrup with it for a balance between sweet/thick/strong/thin.

Consider it Your Doctor’s prescription.

Originally published on December 10th, 2005