Here in the Pacific Northwest, ’tis the season for pomegranates. Normally one thinks of grenadine when mixing with pomegranate, but that isn’t the only way to showcase the flavor of this delicious fruit. Taking advantage of the season, we decided to make a couple drinks using pomegranate juice instead. Read on to see what we came up with.
We wanted to start with a lighter, fruitier cocktail, so we started with a fruit-forward gin and then added some pomegranate juice. A very tasty start on its own 🙂 BTW, we usually end up working with pomegranate juice rather than grenadine because it gives us a finer control of the sweetness added to the drink. There are definitely some well-made artisanal grenadines out there (like Small Hands!) and they are great for lots of drinks, but since they are sweetened, it limits what liqueurs you can combine in a drink with them without ending up with a sugar bomb. So when we think we might want to use sweeter liqueurs, we start with unsweetened pomegranate juice instead. Anyway, from the initial gin and juice pairing, we added some tangerine to bring some brightness and a little bit of acid. Good, but some more tartness was still needed, and the sweet-sour tanginess of pomegranate molasses brought that in spades, plus another layer of pomegranate flavor. Now we weighed a little to the tart side, but some honey balanced that nicely. Finally, we threw in some bitters to add depth and round the drink out, and we were good to go.
(On a slight tangent: deseeding pomegranates is a pain in the butt if you want to make your own juice. Here are a couple of useful techniques, depending on how aggressive you want to be: 1, 2)
Memory and Desire
- 2 oz fruit-forward gin (We used the Brockman’s, which is a really interesting gin with strong plum/currant flavors. A good sloe gin like the Sipsmith might be a reasonable substitute.)
- 1 oz tangerine juice
- 1 oz unsweetened pomegranate juice
- 1 tsp. pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 dash Boker’s bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Cheers!
- Nose: Pomegranate pith, allspice, chamomile, currant, faint orris root and a hint of thyme.
- Palate: Tangerine and chamomile to start. Mid-palate is honey, currants, and pomegranate, balanced by acid from the pomegranate molasses. End of the mid-palate is gin botanicals; juniper, orris root and angelica. Finish is mildly bitter, with allspice, cloves, and a drying tannic bite.
During our experimentation, Christa felt that the pomegranate might pair well with some darker aged spirits, so we experimented with that next. We tried a number of whiskies with the pomegranate juice, and found that the sweeter styles worked the best. Next we tried adding a number of different liqueurs to bring sweetness and complexity. We settled on the Benedictine – the herbal, slightly nutty, slightly bitter flavor went well with both the brightness of the juice and the richness of the whiskey. We finished off by adding some chocolate bitters to call out more of the whiskey’s darker flavors, plus just a hint of cardamom to add some nuance.
- 2 oz whiskey (We used the Westland single malt, but any sweeter , smoother style would work like Angel’s Envy or any of the other Westlands)
- 1 oz unsweetened pomegranate juice
- 1/2 oz Benedictine liqueur
- 1 dash chocolate bitters
- 2 drops cardamom bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a glass. Enjoy!
- Nose: Chocolate, pomegranate, dusty barrel notes. Hints of garden herbs and cardamom.
- Palate: Intro is a compelling combination of bright acidic pomegranate and rich vanilla oak notes from the whiskey. Mid-palate is tannic and somewhat dry with sweet oak, pomegranate, chocolate, and a hint of acidity. Finish is herbal notes and restrained cardamom, along with more chocolate notes towards the end. Throughout, really sweet and rich but with a nice acidic backbone to keep it from being cloying.
Both of these turned out really nicely in our opinions, showcasing the lovely, juicy, sweet-tannic flavor of pomegranate while still letting other flavors speak. They both make excellent drinks for this time of the year and the onset of holiday festivities. We suggest you go out, get some pomegranates* and see what sort of drinks you can come up with. Cheers!
*If you are a lazy bugger like we can often be 😉 the Perfect Purees unsweetened pomegranate concentrate is the next best thing to fresh, and doesn’t involve any peeling/seeding/juicing/etc.