Grenadine syrup is, along with mint, the most popular of drink syrups in France, but it is far from the only
one. Try one of the wonderful flavors described here and quench your thirst in the French way.
The French have been concocting and drinking an incredible variety of drink syrups (sirops) for
hundreds of years, and each one is an invitation to enjoy a new taste. After mixing in water, it is claimed
that 380 million gallons of syrup drinks are consumed each year in France.
When we go out for a drink and the kids are along (it's ok for the kids to be in the bar with you
in France) they often get a grenadine mixed with water. For a long time I thought grenadine syrup was made
from pomegranate juice, but apparently this is just a popular myth started by sailors who were longing for
the exotic fruit they had tasted on the Grenadine islands.
In French, grenadine means pomegranate, but the modern syrup is actually a mixture of red fruit (typically
raspberry, red and black currant, and elderberry), vanilla, and lemon flavorings. Here are a few drinks made with grenadine syrup in France:
Bébé Rose (Pink Baby) - Milk with grenadine.
Tango - Grenadine and beer.
Tomate (Tomato) - Pastis with grenadine.
Orgeat syrup is perhaps one of the stranger of drink syrups popular in France. It was originally made form
barley (its name comes from the French word for barley: orge), but these days it is made from almonds, sugar
and rose or orange flower water.
People do make it at home, but I think mostly they buy orgeat already made.
It can be used to flavor cocktails but is also mixed with plain water or lemonade for a refreshing summer drink.
Mint Syrup is also very popular in France, and I'm sure you've seen people sipping a bright green drink if
you've ever had a look around a French café on a warm summer afternoon. Just like grenadine, there are a
number of popular combinations using mint syrup in France:
Diablo (Devil) - Mint syrup mixed with lemonade
Perroquet (Parrot) - Mint syrup mixed with Pastis
Flavors a go-go! Here's just a few of the myriad of syrup flavors you can find in France:
I almost forgot black currant syrup, known as cassis here. That would have been unpardonable as my son is loopy for the stuff.
And even flower flavors:
I recently triedMonin Natural Violet Syrup, just a small amount in a glass of cold water, and was surprised by how much I liked it. You can find other flower syrups including: rose, jasmine and lavender.
The fabrication of drink syrups in France is strictly controlled by a couple of laws dictating the minimum amount of fruit (10 percent for most fruits, and 7 percent for citrus fruits) and the minimum amount of sugar they can contain (55 percent or 50 percent for citrus flavors). They are made by concentrating the fruit juice through evaporation and than mixing it with a sugar syrup.
A good drink syrup doesn't contain artificial coloring (although mint syrup is usually tinted a violent green), but most depend upon flavorings other than just fruit to give the syrup enough concentrated taste. These days there are quite a few high-quality, artisanal syrups and you can even find sugar free and organic drink syrups.
According to most syrup packaging, you should mix it with seven parts water to one part syrup. It's really a question of taste however. I like just a teaspoon or so in a glass of water. This adds just a hint of flavor and not too much sweet. Needless to say, my kids like a whole lot more!
You can use these syrups as flavoring on yogurt or ice cream and even in recipes.
A one liter bottle of drink syrup replaces eight liter bottles of soda pop or another drink. That's a considerable savings in transport and plastic bottles for the environment to deal with. In addition, the bottles of drink syrup, either in metal or glass, are recyclable in France. I like the fact too that it makes a whole lot less liquid to lug home from the grocery store!