It had been years since I’d given much thought to grenadine, that bright red fruity syrup made famous by the Shirley Temple, a childhood favorite. But then I recently had a Ward 8 — a classic whiskey cocktail whose original recipe calls for orange juice, lemon juice, and grenadine — and that splash of sweet grenadine had me intrigued.
Grenadine is typically made from concentrated pomegranate juice and sugar, but other red fruit juices can be used as well. After tasting that Ward 8, I went out in search of a bottle of grenadine for mixing cocktails with at home. At my local gourmet food store, I stumbled upon a bottle of Employees Only grenadine, from the eponymous and award-winning cocktail bar in New York, and it quickly outshone all others of its kind. The intense, burgundy red syrup possesses complex layers of flavors, ranging from the pomegranate to more surprising notes of cardamom, cinnamon, and ground pepper. And yet it is balanced and light enough to make it a perfect companion to complementary ingredients. I’m perfectly happy slurping it straight by the spoonful, but after several attempts at different combinations, I settled on the perfect combination of grenadine syrup, lemon juice, and bourbon, lightened with a splash of fizzy seltzer. A decidedly grown-up version of the Shirley Temple, I named it the Lady Shirley. You could of course make this drink with a lower-grade grenadine, but the cloying sweetness would detract from the otherwise harmonious pairing of vanilla-noted bourbon and grenadine. This cocktail’s dark and luscious color belies the bright flavors and showcases the grenadine the way it deserves.