What is the difference between grenadine and cherry syrup?

Quick Answers

Grenadine and cherry syrup are two different cocktail ingredients that are often used interchangeably, but have distinct differences. Here are some quick answers to common questions:

What is grenadine?

Grenadine is a syrup made from pomegranate juice, sugar, and other flavorings. It has a tart, fruity flavor and deep red color.

What is cherry syrup?

Cherry syrup is a syrup made from cherries, sugar, and water. It has a sweet, cherry flavor and color.

How do they taste different?

Grenadine has a tart, almost bitter taste while cherry syrup is very sweet. Grenadine has more complexity from the pomegranate while cherry syrup tastes like candied cherries.

How are their colors different?

Grenadine has a bright red color while cherry syrup is a deeper burgundy red.

Can they be substituted for each other?

Grenadine and cherry syrup cannot be perfectly substituted for each other due to their different flavors. In most cases grenadine is used for its tartness while cherry syrup is used for its sweetness.

What is Grenadine?

Grenadine is a syrup that has long been a staple ingredient in cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. It adds a tart, fruity flavor as well as a signature bright red hue. Grenadine is made from pomegranate juice, sugar, and sometimes other flavorings.

Pomegranate juice gives grenadine its tangy taste and vibrant color. Many brands use 100% pomegranate juice while others blend it with additional fruit juices. The pomegranate juice is combined with sugar syrup to create a sweet-tart profile. Traditional recipes call for equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar, but some modern versions use less sugar.

In addition to pomegranate juice and sugar, some grenadine recipes include citrus fruits like lemon, lime, or orange. The citrus adds an extra punch of acidity. Spice extracts like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves are sometimes added as well. Natural or artificial food coloring helps maintain grenadine’s bright ruby red color.

Grenadine was originally invented in the 19th century as a French syrup called grenade syrop. It was first produced commercially by an Italian named Giuseppe Cipriani. Cipriani began selling grenadine in the 1830s and his particular formula became popular in cocktail and soda fountain drinks. His recipe was a closely guarded secret.

Over time, imitation grenadine products emerged. As demand increased, manufacturers developed lower quality versions made from artificial ingredients rather than pomegranate juice. High fructose corn syrup replaced the sugar syrup. Artificial colors and flavors mimicked the original flavor profile. These imposter grenadines were cheaper to produce but lacked the complex, tart flavor.

Today, there are high quality grenadines made with real pomegranate juice as well as lower quality mixes. When selecting grenadine, look for brands that specifically state they are made with pomegranate juice rather than “natural flavors.” A quick check of the ingredients list can verify if it is a true grenadine.

Uses for Grenadine

Grenadine’s most popular use is in cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The tart pomegranate flavor balances sweet ingredients and adds a pop of color. Here are some classic cocktails featuring grenadine:

  • Tequila Sunrise – tequila, orange juice, grenadine
  • Ward 8 – bourbon, orange juice, grenadine
  • Pink Lady – gin, grenadine, lemon juice, egg white
  • Shirley Temple – ginger ale, grenadine
  • Roy Rogers – cola, grenadine

For the tequila sunrise and other grenadine cocktails, the key is to add the grenadine slowly and allow it to sink to the bottom. This creates the ombre effect of the colors.

A dash of grenadine can also enhance the visual appeal and flavor of other cocktails like Manhattans and fruit-based drinks. Non-alcoholic grenadine sodas and icees are popular with both kids and adults.

In cooking, grenadine adds a sweet-tart flavor to sauces, vinaigrettes, glazes, and more. It pairs especially well with fruit-based dishes. Grenadine is commonly used in desserts like cakes, pastries, ice cream, and sorbet.

What is Cherry Syrup?

Cherry syrup is a thick, sugary liquid made from cherry juice, sugar, and water. It delivers a concentrated cherry flavor, deep red hue, and substantial sweetness to cocktails, baked goods, and other applications.

Cherry syrup is made by pitting and juicing cherries then combining the tart cherry juice with a simple syrup. Simple syrup is an equal mixture of sugar and water, boiled to dissolve the sugar. The proportion of cherry juice to simple syrup can vary, with some recipes calling for mostly juice and others being up to half simple syrup. The extra syrup thickens the texture and amplifies the sweetness.

The type of cherry affects the flavor of the syrup. Tart cherry varieties like the Montmorency produce a brighter, more sour syrup. Sweet Bing cherries make a syrup with a candied cherry taste. Most cherry syrup uses a blend of cherry varieties to achieve the right balance of flavors.

Modern production often uses cherry juice concentrate rather than juicing large quantities of whole cherries. The concentrated juice diluted with water and blended with sugar syrup streamlines the process. However, small batch cherry syrups made from scratch can feature more nuanced and complex flavors.

Cherry syrup originated as a way to preserve the short seasonal harvest of cherries. By canning the cherries in sugar syrup, the fruit could be enjoyed year round. It was popularized in the late 19th century at soda fountains and ice cream parlors. Today, commercially produced cherry syrup is widely available.

Uses for Cherry Syrup

Cherry syrup brings its signature sweet, cherry taste to a variety of drinks and desserts. Here are some of the most common uses for cherry syrup:

  • Cocktails – Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Moscow Mule
  • Non-alcoholic drinks – Cherry soda, Italian soda, icees, milkshakes
  • Baking – Cakes, cupcakes, breads, cookies, pies, pastries
  • Toppings and fillings – Pancakes, waffles, crepes, yogurt, ice cream
  • Glazes and sauces – Pork, chicken, meatloaf, cheesecake, fruit salad

In cocktails, cherry syrup is typically used in small amounts as a flavorful sweetener in place of plain simple syrup. Just a splash enhances bourbon, whiskey, rum, and other spirits with candied cherry sweetness. Ices and fountain sodas may use larger amounts of cherry syrup.

Cherry syrup is a classic ingredient in baked goods, delivering moisture and deep cherry flavor. It can be swirled into cake batters before baking or added to frostings. The syrup also improves the flavor of drizzles and sauces for ice cream and other desserts.

Differences between Grenadine and Cherry Syrup

While grenadine and cherry syrup are both red syrups used in drinks and desserts, they have some key differences that distinguish their flavors and uses.

Main Ingredients

The core ingredients in grenadine and cherry syrup differ substantially:

Grenadine Cherry Syrup
Pomegranate juice Cherry juice
Sugar Sugar
Optional: Lime, orange, or lemon juice Water
Optional: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves Optional: Lemon juice

While both contain sugar syrup, grenadine is primarily pomegranate based while cherry syrup comes from cherries. Grenadine may include additional citrus fruits and spices.

Flavor Profile

The different fruits and ingredients lead to distinct flavors:

Grenadine Cherry Syrup
Tart, slightly bitter Very sweet
Sour like pomegranate seeds Candied cherry taste
Notes of citrus and spice One-dimensional cherry flavor

Grenadine has a more complex, tart flavor from the pomegranate while cherry syrup is straightforward sweet cherry. Grenadine adds dimension while cherry syrup adds sweetness.


Due to their different flavors, grenadine and cherry syrup are used in different ways:

Grenadine Cherry Syrup
Small amounts to add tartness Larger amounts for cherry flavor
Mostly cocktails Both cocktails and desserts
Balances sweetness Increases sweetness
Sink to bottom for ombre effect Mixes uniformly into drinks and batters

Grenadine is added in small splashes to cocktails for tartness while cherry syrup is used in larger quantities in both cocktails and sweets for its cherry sweetness.


The red colors also differ slightly:

Grenadine Cherry Syrup
Bright, light, ruby red Dark, deep burgundy red

Grenadine is a clearer, more vibrant red compared to the dark maroon color of cherry syrup.

Can They Be Substituted for Each Other?

Grenadine and cherry syrup have somewhat similar uses in drinks and baking recipes, which leads some to wonder if they can be substituted for one another. However, because their flavors are so distinct, they cannot perfectly replace each other in most applications.

In cocktails, substituting grenadine for cherry syrup would result in a drink that is much tarter and less sweet than the original. Replacing cherry syrup with grenadine could make the drink unpalatably sour. The ombre visual effect of grenadine would also be lost.

If cherry syrup is substituted for grenadine in baking, the end result may be cloyingly sweet without the tartness needed to balance the flavors. Substituting grenadine where cherry syrup is called for may lend a bitter, medicinal taste.

That said, in some recipes the flavors of the other ingredients may be able to mask the differences between the syrups. And in drinks and desserts with many components, small substitutions may not drastically change the overall flavor profile.

Here are some guidelines for substituting grenadine and cherry syrup:

  • Substitute no more than 1/4 of the amount – For example, use 3/4 oz cherry syrup when 1 oz grenadine is called for
  • Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to tart up cherry syrup
  • Choose recipes with other strong flavors like chocolate, spices, or alcohol
  • Reduce the amount of sugar or other sweet ingredients to compensate for cherry syrup
  • Add a few drops of red food coloring to grenadine to achieve a darker color

Test substituting small amounts in the recipe first before scaling up to get the proportions right. Keep in mind that the flavors and colors will not be identical to the original recipe.

Homemade Grenadine and Cherry Syrup

For the freshest flavors, grenadine and cherry syrup can easily be made at home.

Homemade Grenadine

Homemade grenadine allows you to control the ingredients and quality of the pomegranate juice. It has a fresher, fruitier flavor than commercial bottled grenadine. This recipe only requires pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice:


  • 2 cups 100% pomegranate juice
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice


  1. Combine pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan
  2. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until sugar fully dissolves
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool
  4. Transfer to a glass bottle or jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks

The lemon brightens the pomegranate flavor and adds acidity. Make adjustments to the sugar or lemon to suit your tastes.

Homemade Cherry Syrup

Homemade cherry syrup has a pronounced cherry flavor because it’s made from real fruit. Fresh or frozen cherries can be used. This easy recipe requires just three ingredients:


  • 2 cups pitted cherries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar


  1. Combine cherries and water in a small saucepan
  2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then mash cherries with a wooden spoon or potato masher
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir in sugar until fully dissolved, about 5 minutes
  4. Remove from heat and strain syrup through a mesh sieve into a glass bottle, pressing on solids
  5. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks

Letting the mashed cherries simmer infuses the syrup with intense cherry flavor. The strained syrup will have beautiful color and transparency.


Grenadine and cherry syrup both bring sweet red flavors to cocktails and foods, but have key differences. Grenadine has a tart, complex pomegranate taste while cherry syrup is sugary sweet. Grenadine adds small splashes of flavor and color while cherry syrup contributes larger amounts of cherry sweetness. Due to their distinct flavors, grenadine and cherry syrup cannot perfectly substitute for each other in recipes. However, homemade versions of both syrups are easy to make with fresh ingredients. When used properly in the right applications, grenadine and cherry syrup each shine in their own unique way.

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