Guest Post: Traveling in time at Château De Laubade Armagnac

IMG_0241Today we have a guest post from Hoke Harden, CSS, CWE. Hoke is well-known to SWE members as one of the contributors to the original CSS Study Guide and a popular (and highly-rated) conference speaker. Hoke invites us to travel back in time with a visit to Château de Laubade in Armagnac, and taste France’s oldest brandy, made by time-honored traditions now codified into law.

Located in the departement of Gers in the Gascogne region of south-west France, situated in the verdant rolling foothills of the Midi-Pyrénées, Armagnac hews to the old ways to make a unique rustic and earthy brandy celebrated the world over.

Brandy began here on the many small family farms dotted across the landscape. Thrifty landholders naturally cultivated wine grapes amongst their other crops so good, basic drinking wine could grace their tables. Eventually, the wine found its way into brandy—although most of the farms were too modest to have their own distillery and each year they waited until a local distiller could hitch up his portable still and take it to each farm for custom distillation.

Thus custom and tradition created an agreement on basic methods of brandy production, but allowed, even encouraged, a fiercely independent style by each small-batch producer, since most of the brandy would remain for family consumption, unlike its famous northern neighbor, Cognac, which was focused primarily on commercial exports. Today, the commercial houses of Armagnac remain fairly small concerns, with each having its own way of doing things, but all bound by the officiating body of the Bureau National Interprofessionel du Armagnac.

IMG_0242Château De Laubade, located in the tiny village of Sorbets in the Bas-Armagnac AOC, is a storybook picture of a place, with its gated entrance, sturdy round tower and ancient mottled brick buildings leading to a fanciful Normandy-style chateau from 1870 perched on a hill to view the sweeping expanse of vineyards in the valley below.

These well-tended vineyards are essential, for only they are used for Château De Laubade’s Armagnacs. After the upheavals of phylloxera and oidium that devastated French vineyards, Armagnac recovered and settled in with several approved varieties, but at Laubade, only the four key varieties are allowed: Ugni Blanc, known in Italy as Trebbiano, a workhorse grape;  Folle Blanche, a delicate and floral variety that is susceptible to rot and difficult to farm; Baco Blanc, a French-American hybrid cross between Folle Blanche and Noah intended to give the character of Folle Blanche without the problems; and Columbard, which in this terroir provides impressively spicy and herbal characters to the blend.

Each year the varieties are harvested, fermented, distilled and barreled individually, to be aged and blended by the master distiller into the various Armagnacs the estate produces.

Originally, all distillation in Armagnac was done in a pot-and-column continuous copper still , an alembic Armagnacais, so only one distillation was required to gain sufficient alcohol strength and clarity. Today, any type of distillation is permissible; most distillers use the traditional method, others use the alembic double-distillation approach, depending upon style preferences.

IMG_0240Another traditional touch comes in with the choice of barrel. The Armagnacais traditionally prefer initial aging, from six months to a year, in a local black oak heavy in tannin from the nearby forest of Monlezun, then transferring the eau-de-vie to lighter, finer-grained, and older, more subtle toasted oak barrels from such sources as Limousin and Tronçais for continued but more elegant development.

The minimum aging to be designated Armagnac is one year, but most are blends of much, much older brandies to create the various VSOP, Reserve, XO, Hors d’Age and other well-matured designations.  Armagnac has also continued the tradition of maintaining single-vintage and single-variety releases, with the proviso that any single-vintage must be a minimum of ten years in barrel prior to release.

To maintain blending stocks, and to retard the loss of precious alcohol through evaporation in barrel, when a brandy has gained all it can from the barrel, it is racked into large bulbular glass demi-johns, which are then placed in the most revered cellar location, referred to as Le Paradis—Paradise.  These will be doled out in miniscule amounts and used judiciously to enhance new blends with added depth and nuance.

In one of the more remarkable tastings I have been fortunate enough to enjoy, a master distiller at Chateau de Laubade took me through three levels of sampling.

IMG_0246First, he provided four samples of eau-de-vie from the 2013 vintage which had received no barrel treatment: Ugni Blanc, Baco Blanc, Folle Blanche and Columbard. The differences among the ‘naked’ eau-de-vies were immediate, impressive and actually somewhat startling. The Ugni Blanc was lean, tight, mineral, and tartly, astringently acidic. The Baco was the reverse of that coin, rich, earthy, full in the mouth and expansive. The Folle Blanche was wonderfully floral, light, and bright and lively.  And the Columbard was impressively spicy and tangy and strong with herbal coriander-seed aromas.  Even from this rough and undeveloped primal state, one could easily see the wide range of possibilities a blending could take in the hands of a master.

For the second step, the master distiller brought out four more wines—again, the four basic varieties, but this time they were individually barrel-aged samples: an Ugni Blanc and Baco Blanc from the 1994 Vintage, a Columbard from the 1995 vintage, and a Folle Blanche from 2001.

Again, the differences were immediate and amazing. The mature Ugni Blanc had become forceful and deeply colored, but had maintained that almost steely intensity and structure it showed originally. The Baco, on the other hand, had become even richer, more rounded, and significantly more earthy, with an umami-mushroom undertone. The Columbard had deepened and strengthened its herbal-spice focus, tightened its structure, and had become one of the most singularly expressive Columbards I had ever experienced. And the Folle Blanche had developed a lacy, fruit-floral elegance and airiness that was lovely to linger over.  Again, one could consider the infinite possibilities of mingling these creatures into a master blend.

IMG_0258For the last stage of the tasting we strolled over to the chateau and in the midst of the lavishly decorated sitting room, overlooking the vineyards, I was offered my choices of a dazzling array of bottles from the offerings of Château De Laubade.  While wishing I had the fortitude to taste each and every one of these precious mahogany brandies, I restrained myself—with difficulty–to only a few select choices:  an XO with 15 to 25 years of age; an XO l”Intemporel No. 5 with 25-50 years; a vintage 1990; a vintage 1983; and as a finale, a vintage 1942, a brandy I simply could not resist.

The import of the previous tastings varietal tastings became evident , for with these armagnacs I could discern the contribution of the varietal characters as well as the resonance and depth that maturity brought to the marriage.  The firm linear structure of Ugni Blanc was enhanced by Baco’s warm, earthy richness, with the spice-lash of Columbard coming up from below and the lacy aromatics of Folle Blanche wafting above, and all coming together in the center with four made one and sum magnificently greater than parts.

In the two XO’s, differences of age showed clearly. The younger  XO was lighter, brighter, with more citrus and flower and orchard fruit shining clearly, only beginning to show the tinges of oncoming maturity along the edges. The older No. 5 Intemporel, with obvious and welcome richness from Baco, was profoundly deep and brooding, redolent of dried orange peel, savory mince, and prunes vying with old leather, cocoa, and baking spices, and lingered for the longest time.

IMG_0257The 1990 Laubade, a worthy reminder of the worldwide excellence of that vintage, was still bright and lively with apricot fruit, laced with firm acids, and showing the ability to age gracefully for many, many years.  Again, the striking elements of structure, earthiness, spice and flower were all present. Think of the 1990 as an Audrey Hepburn Armagnac: always young, always charming, teasing, enticing and never out of style.

The 1983 Laubade was more abundant, with more heft and weight and substance, with the feeling it was just now beginning to hit its prime. The foundation of Ugni and Baco were clearly there, with the Baco deepening and mellowing, yet, oddly enough, allowing more room for the spicy-herbal Columbard and faint floral perfume of Folle Blanche to “fill in the spaces” seamlessly, showing the pure mastery of the blender’s art coupled with the seasoning of age.

The 1942 Laubade was a quiet work of art, a gentle, soft, round, warm delight. Initially a bit tentative, it warmed and expanded in the mouth, and the post-nasal aromatics effulgently stimulated the senses. There is something profound in a brandy that bridges the years, that connects you to a time before you were born and like an old film or photo album calls up glimpses of things you never experienced.

In 1942 France had been ignominiously conquered by archenemy Germany, had the heart of its country occupied, with the pitiful remainder shoved into Vichy. The devastating war was flaring even higher, spreading all over the world.  Times were still difficult in Gascony but the land endured, as did the people, and there was even guarded optimism for a brighter future. Grapes still had to be harvested, wine made, brandy distilled.

IMG_0262This Armagnac was a sign of that future; made in hard times, perhaps it would be consumed in far better times. Such is the cloaked power of a well-made brandy, made reverent with age.  And such is the power of Château De Laubade Armagnac that 70 years later the brandy remained vibrant and alive – while the distant past was only dull regret and faded memory.

About the author: An enthusiastic lover of wine and spirits, Mr. Harden left a career in academia to follow his other muse for the last 27 years, trekking around the world to the great producing regions. Recently referred to as a veritable walking omnibus of wine and spirits knowledge, he has experienced every possible facet of the world of wine and spirits as a retailer, restaurateur, bartender, buyer, wholesaler, supplier, marketer, critic, writer, competition judge and an educator. He is currently with Elixir Vitae Wine & Spirits Consultants, a member of the Society of Wine Educators, Wine & Spirits Instructor at Mt. Hood Community College, and a Master Instructor with the French Wine Academy.

Glass and Bottle of Suze

SuzeSuze, a lightly sweet type of bittered liqueur, was created in Paris in 1889 by a distiller named Fernand Moureaux.  While Suze has long been popular in Europe as an aperitif and mixer, it has just become available on the American Market.

The original recipe for Suze called for wild gentian root harvested from the mountains of the Jura and Auvergne regions of France.  Other ingredients in this highly aromatic, bright yellow liqueur include vanilla, dried wildflowers, fennel, bitter oranges, and honey.

Now produced by Pernod Ricard, Suze is among the top selling aperitifs in France.  The fame and reputation of Suze received quite a boost in 1912 when it was featured in the painting “Verre et bouteille de Suze” (Glass and Bottle of Suze) by Pablo Picasso.

The painting, actually a collage, incorporates bits of newspaper, wallpaper, and construction paper to portray (some art critics say “suggest”) a liquor bottle with a label, a glass, an ashtray, and a lit cigarette. These all rest on a blue table in front of a wall covered with diamond-patterned wallpaper and pieces of newspaper.

glass and bottle of suzeThese elements all represent the popular daily Parisian routine of reading the paper while smoking and drinking in a café; however, at the same time, the newspaper articles themselves tell of the terrifying events of the First Balkan War. Many art critics believe these elements represent the juxtaposition of the simple pleasures, as well as the horrors, of modern life.

If you would rather concentrate on life’s pleasures, try a White Negroni – 2 parts gin, 1 part Suze, and 1 part White Vermouth shaken and strained over ice, garnished with a lemon twist.

“Verre et bouteille de Suze” (Glass and Bottle of Suze) by Pablo Picasso is currently on display at the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. Click here to read about the painting in the museum’s archives.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

SWEbinars Get Spirited!

whiskeyBy popular demand!

Here’s one for the cocktail crowd! Starting in April we will be offering Spirits SWEbinars designed for CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits) Exam prep.  These sessions, covering  the material in the CSS Study guide and beyond, will be of interest to any spirits professional, mixologist,  wine lover, wine professional, or spirits enthusiast!

Our first “Spirited SWEbinar” will be offered on April 11, 2014 at 12 noon (central time). The topic will be Whisky (Chapter 4 in the CSS Study Guide).

We are pleased and honored to have Barry Wiss, CSS, CWE as our presenter for this session.  Barry is the Vice President of Trade Relations for Trinchero Family Estates and serves as the Second Vice President on SWE’s Board of Directors.

We’ll also be continuing with our CSW review sessions, and offering other Spirited SWEbinars in the future – click here for more information on our SWEbinars!

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“Dr. Zwack, das ist ein Unicum!”

zwackProduced in Budapest, Hungary; Unicum is a bold, bitter liqueur created using over 40 different botanicals. Unicum was invented in 1790 by Dr. József Zwack, Royal Physician to the Hungarian Court, in order to settle the stomach of Emperor Joseph II, then the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary.

The beverage is said to have received its name when Emperor Joseph proclaimed, “Dr. Zwack, das ist ein Unicum!” meaning the drink was “rather unique!”

In 1840, the Doctor’s son, József Junior, founded J. Zwack & Partners, the first Hungarian liqueur manufacturer. Soon, J. Zwack & Partners was one of the leading distilleries in Eastern Europe, producing over 200 varieties of spirits and liqueurs and exporting them all over the world.  The distillery was handed down through the generations of the family and successfully operated until the facility was completely destroyed during World War II.

After the war, in 1948, the distillery was seized from the Zwack family and nationalized by the Communist regime.  János and Péter Zwack, the grandson and great-grandson of the founder, escaped the country with the original Zwack recipe.  Another grandson, Béla, remained behind to give the regime a “fake” Zwack recipe and became a regular factory worker.

Zwack PosterMeanwhile, János and Péter migrated to the United States and settled in the Bronx.  Péter worked diligently in the liquor trade and entered into an agreement with the Jim Beam Company to produce and distribute products under the Zwack name.

In 1988, one year before the fall of the communist regime, Péter returned to Hungary in 1988 and repurchased the Zwack production facility from the state.  By 1990, the production of the original Zwack formula and many other products resumed in Budapest.

The Zwack Company has since recovered its position as the leading distillery of Eastern Europe and is now run by the sixth generation of the Zwack family.

Click here to visit the Zwack Website

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Plymouth Gin

Photo by Gernot Keller

Photo by Gernot Keller

In the late 1700′s, at the time the London Dry Gin style was becoming wildly popular,  distillers in other English cities developed their own styles of gin as well.  Plymouth, Bristol, Warrington, and Norwich all had their unique styles. Plymouth Gin, produced since 1793, is the only one of these historic gins still produced today.

The building which was to become the Plymouth Gin distillery was originally a Dominican Monastery inhabited by an order known as the Black Friars. In 1536, at the time of the Reformation, the Monastery was dissolved and the building was put to other uses, including a debtor’s prison and a meeting place.  Legend has it that the Plymouth pilgrims who sailed to America aboard the Mayflower spent their last night in England here in 1620. The next morning, they made the short walk down to the harbor, ready to set sail to America and found a “new” Plymouth. The Mayflower ship forms a part of Plymouth Gin’s trademark label today.

In 1697, the building became the Black Friar’s Distillery.  Part of the distillery is housed in what was once the rectory of the monastery and retains a hull-shaped timber roof built in 1431.  This makes it one of the oldest buildings in Plymouth and a protected national monument.  With records of a “mault-house” on the premises dating to 1697, the distillery also claims to be the oldest working gin distillery in the world. The distinctive Plymouth Gin began to be produced in 1793, not long after the business became known as “Coates & Company.”

plymouth ginIn 1896, Plymouth Gin was mentioned in what is considered to be the first documented recipe for the drink that would become known as the dry martini. The recipe, under the name “Marguerite Cocktail,” appeared in a book published by the Excelsior Publishing House in New York known as “Stuart’s Fancy Drinks & How to Mix Them,” by Thomas Stuart.  Plymouth Gin is listed as the key ingredient, along with “French Vermouth and a dash of orange bitters.”

Plymouth Gin, still produced in England, has been awarded a Protected Geographical Indication by the European Union.  The PGI technically pertains to any gin distilled in Plymouth, although the Black Friar’s Distillery is the only distillery currently operating in the town. The style of Plymouth Gin is crystal-clear color in color with a full-bodied texture, fruity aromas and a very aromatic juniper berry profile.

For more information, visit the Plymouth Gin website.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

U.S. Distillery License #1

11932270_ml (1)Applejack, a type of brandy made from apple cider, was one of the most popular beverages in colonial America.  Applejack was historically made by a traditional method known as freeze distillation, involving leaving apple cider outside to freeze, and chipping off chunks of ice in order to concentrate the alcohol content.   The term applejack derives from jacking, a term for freeze distillation.

In 1780, soon after the American Revolution, the new nation’s first distillery permit – U.S. License #1 – was granted to a producer of apple brandy, Laird’s Distillery of Scobeyville, New Jersey.  Laird’s had been producing applejack since 1760 and supplied brandy to George Washington’s troops during the revolutionary war.  Laird’s applejack was later used as currency to pay road construction crews during the colonial period.  1933, Laird & Company was granted a federal license under the Prohibition Act to produce apple brandy for “medicinal purposes”, allowing the company to resume operations prior to repeal.

Applejack is still produced by Laird’s distillery, albeit using modern distillation methods.  The distillery is now located in Virginia near the source of their apples but the historic New Jersey site is still maintained for use in maturing and bottling the spirits. Laird’s Applejack is a blend of 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral spirits.

applejackThe company also produces Old Apple Brandy (aged for 7 ½ years), 12 year old rare apple brandy, and Laird’s Bottled-In-Bond Straight Apple Brandy (100 proof).  For many years Laird’s was the only producer of apple brandy in America, however, several other distillers in the United States, notably the Germain-Robin craft distillery in California, are now producing apple brandy.

Despite the history, the terms applejack and apple brandy are now used synonymously in the United States. Demand for apple brandy declined in the 1960s, but the spirit is seeing a renewed interest among mixologists.  The classic cocktail made with applejack is the “Jack Rose,” a blend of applejack, lemon juice, and grenadine.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Cheers to the Kir Royale!

Kir RoyaleIf you are looking for a festive cocktail to serve this holiday season, you can’t do much better than a Kir Royale.  The recipe is simple:  put one tablespoon of Crème de Cassis in the bottom of a flute, top up with Champagne and, if desired, garnish with a lemon twist. As you can probably imagine, there are dozens of variations on the classic recipe, and you can find versions of the Kir that include cranberries, frozen raspberries, Prosecco, and Chambord, among other things.

The Kir originated in the region of Burgundy. It is named after a local priest, Canon Félix Kir.  Canon Kir was a war hero of the French Resistance, and is remembered for helping 5,000 prisoners of war escape from the Nazis during World War II.  During the war, he was eventually captured by the Nazis, seriously wounded, and condemned to death; but despite it all, he managed to survive the war.

In 1945, Canon Kir was made a knight of the Légion d’honneur and, soon after, was elected the Mayor of the town of Dijon.  He remained the mayor of Dijon until his death in 1968.

Tribute to Mayor Kir

Tribute to Mayor Kir

Mayor Kir, like many people in Burgundy, enjoyed the local custom of combining two local products – a wine that we would call Bourgogne-Aligoté, and the locally produced liqueur known as Crème de Cassis de Dijon – into a refreshing aperitif.    The resulting drink was known as a blanc-cassis. Mayor Kir was a big fan of the beverage and was often seen in public drinking a blanc-cassis.

Mayor Kir, as you might imagine, was very popular in his community and very keen to support local products as well.  Thus, he lent his name to the drink mixing Bourgogne-Aligoté and Crème de Cassis de Dijon and soon people all over Burgundy were enjoying a Kir before dinner.

The combination of local flavors became so popular that it spread all over France, with several regional variations along the way.  The legend says that once the idea of the drink reached Paris, café society mixed their cassis with Champagne, and the Kir Royale was born.

À votre santé! 

Note:  It’s important to note that while Crème de Cassis is a generic product and made in many locations, “Crème de Cassis de Dijon” is a product specifically of Burgundy, made using “Noir de Bourgogne” black currants.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

 

 

The Egg Nog Riots of 1826

egg nogPerhaps no other drink is as closely associated with the holidays as eggnog.  Beloved for several centuries, eggnog as a drink has stayed relatively the same over the years.  The ingredients are simple: eggs, cream or milk, spices (especially nutmeg), sugar, and alcohol.  However, this seemingly basic drink has a long and somewhat storied history.

Eggnog became a popular drink in England and the Colonies near the end of the 18th century.  Originating in England, it is believed to have begun as a derivation of a drink called posset, which was a hot drink made with eggs, milk, and ale or wine. Eggnog became a favorite among the English aristocracy, who were the only group that had regular access to milk and eggs in England at the time.  The English preferred their eggnog mixed with Sherry or Madeira.

In America, where food was more available, eggnog became a standard drink. As the American colonists had easy access to rum, it became the standard mixer for eggnog.  This led to the nickname of “grog” which was a term that would be applied to rum based drinks of many types, but came to regularly refer to eggnog.

Once the Revolutionary War began, rum was more difficult to obtain.  As a response, whiskey became the main alcoholic mixer for egg nog.  Once the war ended, a wider variety of alcohols were enjoyed.  George Washington’s recipe called not only for rum, but also for rye and sherry.

egg nog 2The Egg Nog Riots:  On an infamous Christmas Eve in 1826, ten West Point cadets smuggled eggs, milk, nutmeg, and two gallons of whiskey into their dormitory.  This was despite (or, perhaps, because of) the strict anti-alcohol polices of the academy. Led by future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, the cadets threw themselves an egg nog party.

As with most college parties, things soon got out of hand, and the revelers drew the attention of a teacher, Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock.  Just as he arrived, Davis realized the trouble coming and shouted. “Put away the grog boys, Old Hitch is coming!”  Hitchcock attempted to end the party and return the cadets to their rooms.  The students rioted in response and the event led to the “Eggnog Riot” or “Grog Mutiny” which resulted in the largest expulsion of cadets in West Point’s history.

So this season, raise your whiskey and egg nog in celebration for the holidays, a new year, and the nineteen cadets who were expelled 187 years ago as a result of our favorite seasonal beverage.

For further reading see: “The Egg Nog Riot” Michelle Legro, Lapham’s Quarterly 

“The History of Eggnog” by Nanna Rognvaldardottir

Click here for the Maker’s Mark Recipe for Eggnog.

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Post authored by Ben Coffelt  – bcoffelt@societyofwineeducators.org

Grape Stems into Grappa

Grappa GlassSome say the name “Grappa” is based on the Italian town of Bassano del Grappa, located in Italy’s Veneto Region.  Others say it is based on the fact that the word grappa literally means “grape stalk” in Italian.

We may never know exactly where the word came from, or where grappa was first made, but we do know that grappa has been produced, as a by-product of the Italian winemaking trade, since the Middle Ages. Itinerant distillers used to travel from vineyard to vineyard, distilling the fresh pomace (called vinaccia in Italian) on the spot, and providing the vineyard workers with a raw, potent spirit to ward off the cold.

The tradition of vineyard distillation is no longer practiced, as the stems present in the pomace tend to produce a small amount of methanol, which is toxic and must be carefully removed during distillation. Thus, current Italian law does not allow distillation to take place at the winery; winemakers must bring their pomace to a distiller (or run their own operations, separate from the winery premises).  This change has actually help to transition the reputation of grappa from the “moonshine” of yesterday to the artisanal spirit of today.

Modern grappa is produced via column stills, pot stills or traditional steam distillation. Grappa is generally bottled at 40 to 45% alcohol by volume and may be produced from a single variety, known as a monovitigno, or, more commonly, from a mixed batch.  After distillation, grappa may be aged for several months in glass or other inert containers before distribution as a clear, unaged spirit.  Some grappas are oak aged and may be labeled with terms such as vecchio (old) or stravecchio (extra-old).

GrappaGrappa is often served as a digestif, or, as a caffè corretto (corrected coffee), with a shot of espresso. A variation of this is the resentin (“little rinser”), where the espresso is consumed first, followed by a swirl of grappa served in the same cup.

In the European Union, the term “grappa” is restricted to use for products produced in Italy, parts of Switzerland, or San Marino. However modern craft distillers in the United States and elsewhere, such as Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery and Clear Creek Distillery, are making artisanal pomace brandies labeled with the term “grappa.”

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

The Real Thing: Grenadine

tequila sunriseGrenadine:  it puts the sunrise in Tequila and turns simple rum-and-pineapple juice into a glamorous Mary Pickford. It sits on every back bar in the world, gleaming with an unnatural, almost nuclear-red glow.

It glows - unnaturally red – that is, if you buy store-bought Grenadine.  Like most bar mixers, Grenadine is mass produced and widely distributed.  You can probably pick up a bottle at your local grocery store, and your corner bar most likely orders it by the case.

But you might want to think twice before you pick up your next bottle of Trader Vic’s or Rose’s Grenadine.  A popular brand of commercial grenadine – let’s just say it represents just about all commercial grenadine products – lists the following ingredients on the label: high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate (preservative), RED 40, natural and artificial flavors, BLUE 1.

GrenadineGrenadine was originally made from pomegranate juice, sugar, and water, although black currants are just as likely to flavor today’s commercial versions. The name “Grenadine” originates from “grenade” – the French word for pomegranate.

Pomegranate syrup, which can be found in most Middle Eastern grocery stores (as well as Whole Foods Market), is made with pomegranate concentrate and sugar, and can serve as a decent substitute.

However, like many things to be found on the back bar, Grenadine is simple to make, and house made products are far superior to the mass-produced versions.   I’ve tried several recipes over the last few weeks, and have come up with my favorite version.

Try it for yourself – and let us know what you think!

Grenadine (The “Real Deal”)

Ingredients:

  • Pomegranate Juice1 cup Pomegranate Juice – fresh squeezed is best, but a good brand like “Pom” will work as well
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh Lemon Juice
  • 4 drops Orange Flower Water
  • Optional:  1 tablespoon Pomegranate Molasses

Technique:

  1. Heat the pomegranate juice until steam rises from the surface; do not heat beyond this point – you want to turn the heat off before (of as soon as) you see any bubbles start to form.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  2. Add the sugar and stir.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, then stir again until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Add the lemon juice, orange flower water and optional pomegranate molasses.  Let the syrup cool to room temperature (about an hour) and transfer to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Stored in the refrigerator, your homemade grenadine will stay fresh for about a month.  If you would like to extend the life of your grenadine, try freezing a portion of it, or adding a few tablespoons of vodka to the cooled syrup.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org