Flicking through Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book recently, I was struck by how many of these recipes that have stood the test of time called for grenadine. It’s a (usually) non-alcoholic syrup made with pomegranate juice, with the option of added orange flower water, and lemon. As we find no pomegranates, orange flowers or lemons on Islay, but we do have brambles just now, we thought we’d try to make a scratch grenadine substitute out of the bounty of the season.
Personally, I love the range of flavours you can get in a handful of brambles, but they don’t have the mouthfeel or the starchy depth that clings to your teeth that pomegranate juice has. That astringency could be provided by rowan berries, I thought. As we have a crop and a half of haws on the hawthorne trees (rose family) around the island just now – often growing cheek by jowl with the rowans (also rose family) – we added those to the mix too.
For the floral element, I wanted honeysuckle, and though I found some it is getting late in the season for it here. There is abundant Rosebay Willowherb (“fireweed”) around though, in fact there’s a colossal bank of it growing intertwined with honeysuckle in the wasteland just behind the distillery deliveries entrance. I’d heard via the palate of Liz Knight that it tasted of cranberry, and a little googling revealed it was once a mainstream competitor to tea, with Russian provenance. [See an account at tea in the city] We went for a mixture of these blooms to get volume.
For batch one, which was small but perfectly in proportion, we used the following.
- 4 oz brambles, in a pan, just covered with cold water
- 3 oz mixed rowan and hawthorn berries, in a pan, well covered with cold water
- 1 oz sugar
- handful of flowers, steeped in a cup of not-boiling water (a little hotter than comfortably hand hot seems about right)
extra caster sugar to taste
Raise the heat to boiling then simmer the brambles for not more than 5 minutes. Pulp and push the mulch through a sieve.
Similarly, simmer the rowans and haws with the ounce of caster sugar for 10- 15 minutes until they can be pulped (we used a potato masher) and pushed through a sieve.
Add enough of the flower tea to lengthen to the consistency of single cream.
Taste and add caster sugar, stirring to dissolve, to achieve the desired blend of sweet and sour.
Use 1 part grenadine to 2 parts gin, shaken with egg white to make a ‘Breakfast cocktail’. Add an additional juice of half a lemon to make a foraged version of a ‘Clover Club’.