At first blush, “Does grenadine need to be refrigerated?” appears to be a foolish question, as we only refrigerate things that can go bad.
Since grenadine is made with a large proportion of sugar, and because sugar is a superb preservative, surely there’d be no reason to refrigerate grenadine?
As with many things in life, it’s not that simple. Theoretically, there ought not be a reason to refrigerate grenadine given its sugar content, but facts don’t care about theory (and “it is what it is,” as the good Lord said to the inquisitive zebra–remind me to tell you the story sometime).
Does Grenadine Need To Be Refrigerated?
An unopened bottle of grenadine does not need to be refrigerated but an opened one does. Put the bottle in a dry, cool storage space such as a larder or well-maintained drinks cabinet. That way grenadine is typically sufficiently protected from the elements to remain unspoiled for over a year. Once opened, however, oxidation can affect some of the ingredients in grenadine, encouraging the growth of microbes whose metabolic activities will eventually spoil the liquid.
Why Grenadine Syrup Might Be In Danger Of Going Bad
1. Grenadine is made from stuff that can go bad
In the main, most producers make grenadine from water infused with orange-flower, lemon juice, pomegranate juice, and sugar–lots and lots of sugar. (By the way, I’m a purist; if it doesn’t contain pomegranate juice, it isn’t really grenadine.)
The result is a super sweet syrup that is also tart so that its sweetness is in no danger of becoming sickening, especially when we use the syrup as intended, in cocktails.
Lemon, orange-flower, and pomegranate juices all have organic compounds that attract microbes like a magnet, because to critters, these are smorgasbords of ready food.
Sure, producers bend over backward to sterilize all ingredients employed in making grenadine by using high pressure to cook them at higher temperatures than is reached by ordinary boiling water.
However, trouble begins when, post-production, folks open bottles of grenadine and bugs get to the liquid. Trouble also starts brewing after the seal on the cap of a bottle of grenadine inevitably deteriorates because the bottle has been kept for too long.
When this happens, the sugar in grenadine fights a noble rearguard action to slow down the growth of bacteria, but eventually, the little critters adapt enough to overwhelm the sugar’s defenses and spoil it (although, more on this below).
2. Grenadine production outliers
We can arrange grenadine in a spectrum. We start with some purely gimmicky (and yucky) sugar-and-chemically flavored concoctions.
Next, we have solid grenadines made as I’ve described earlier, from lemon, flower infusions, and pomegranate juice.
Finally, we have expensive, top-of-the-range grenadines made with actual fruit. You ought to be able to predict that each of these bands is exposed to a different degree of risk of going bad.
Chemically flavored sugar water won’t offer anything of note to attract an invasion by bugs, and therefore, these can sit unopened or opened virtually forever without running the risk of going bad.
On the other hand, who would want to use this stuff in their cocktails except perhaps for indigent college students trying to save a quick buck while impressing the ladies?
Both those I call “solid,” and top-of-the-range grenadines will be okay unopened, but the rate at which they spoil will differ markedly.
Top grenadines made with natural fruit offer the best medium for invading bugs, and so these will degrade much faster than those made from all-liquid juices.
I bring up these distinctions because it is essential to realize that the shelf-life of grenadine isn’t a “one size fits all” situation.
3. We use Grenadine in a way that means it sits around for a long time after we open it
Grenadine is a fundamental component of many of your beloved cocktails: my personal favorite, Tequila Sunrise (drool), Singapore Sling, Pineapple Vodka, Malibu Sunset, and the Mary Pickford.
As an additive, there is the off-chance that on any shelf except one in a bustling cocktail bar, a bottle of grenadine will have to wait around for quite a while before it gets used up, sometimes for months on end.
The possible longevity of a bottle of grenadine in a drinks cabinet or bar shelf means that it is reasonable to ask whether grenadine requires refrigeration to extend its shelf-life, and if so, what sort of shelf-life can we expect from the average bottle of grenadine?
The point is, the only reason a sugary liquid like grenadine might spoil is that the way we tend to use it means that bottles of it could be sitting around for quite a long time–virtually from one party or social event to another, which could be an age.
Let’s face it, we don’t usually throw extravaganzas because we’ve got a bottle of grenadine sitting around that needs to be used up.
Storing Grenadine and Protecting It From Spoiling
There is a good argument that grenadine doesn’t actually ever spoil; it just goes “funky.” The strong preservative action of concentrated sugar in grenadine defends against the kind of microbes which will give you food poisoning (see more below).
Instead, your unwelcome guests are like tiny hooligans, roughing up juices and causing them to separate and become disagreeable with one another so that no amount of shaking will get them harmoniously living together ever again.
When a bottle of grenadine has gone off, you will notice that crust has formed around its cap. Being a sugary syrup, you might think that’s perfectly normal, but you’d be wrong. This crust appears because busy little bugs are busy having a field day messing with the chemistry of liquid, and oxidation lends them a hand.
Preventing all of this is a matter of storing your unopened bottle of grenadine in a cool, dry place that is not exposed to direct sunlight. While you don’t need to put the bottle in an actual dark place, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if you did–but a dry, cool dark place.
Now, once you’ve opened the bottle of grenadine, it’s a whole new ball game. Critters with an eye for the main chance, take that opportunity and go all Freddy Krueger on your poor old grenadine. The best way to deal with this is to store the bottle in your fridge. This causes the bugs to chill out and dramatically slows their boisterousness.
Storing Grenadine–Durations Before Spoilage Occurs
Unopened and stored in a well-protected space, good grenadines last for a year, possibly longer. However, I doubt if you’ve bought grenadine for the pleasure of just staring at it, so it is more likely that you’ve already opened the bottle and used part of it.
Opened bottles of grenadine last only a month or two if not refrigerated–and–if stored correctly. When refrigerated, open bottles of grenadine can last up to six months. It is also important to note that it’s too late to refrigerate the grenadine once spoilage sets in. You cannot reverse spoilage.
Frequently Asked Questions on Does Grenadine Need to Be Refrigerated?
How To Tell If Grenadine Has Spoilt?
Spoiled grenadine mostly doesn’t go bad in the sense of posing a health risk unless your particular grenadine has actual fruit in it, in which case you might run the risk of food poisoning. The main tell-tale signs are how grenadine smells and tastes. If grenadine smells “off,” chuck it away and don’t taste it. If your grenadine smells okay and isn’t bubbling–something that can only happen if it contains real fruit–taste it. If it tastes weak or unconvincing, then it is spoilt and will lower your cocktails’ quality. Throw it away.
How Long Does Grenadine Last Once Opened?
If not refrigerate and if stored correctly, Grenadine lasts 1 to 2 months. When refrigerated, open bottles of grenadine can last up to six months.