Words by: Simon Difford
Groseille syrup is one of those bartending ingredients of legend, its notoriety due to it being a key ingredient in one particular cocktail from the 1920s - the Artists Special Cocktail. Groseille syrup appears to be unobtainable but it is easy to make yourself and the Artists Special is worth the effort.
Not even Monin with its 100 plus flavours makes a groseille syrup and searches on Amazon proved "fruitless". Groseille is French for 'currant' - red currants and groseille syrup is simply redcurrant juice mixed with sugar to make a syrup. The first bartenders guide written by Jerry Thomas and published in 1862 has numerous fruit syrup recipes, including this one for Sirop de Groseilles.
Bartender's Guide 1862
The redcurrant, or red currant (Ribes rubrum) is a member of the gooseberry family and is native across western Europe. A deciduous shrub, Ribes rubrum can grow as tall as 2 meters (7 ft), each bush producing some 3-4 killos (7-9 lb) of berries from mid to late summer. (Even in January we found redcurrants for sale at London's Borough Market.) There are other species producing similar edible fruit in Europe, Asia and North America.
The berries are slightly tart and here in the UK we mostly enjoy them made into redcurrant jelly, a type of jam served with lamb, game meat and particularly turkey at Christmas time. This is made by adding the redcurrants to sugar, boiling and straining, and you can use the same process to make a less concentrated syrup. However, so long as the redcurrants are good and ripe I find this method easier.
1. Muddle the berries in a sieve to extract their juice then discard the skins
2. Whatever volume of juice your efforts have produced - add half the volume of water. (i.e. ½ cup of water to 1 cup of juice).
3. Pour your mix of juice and water into a pan on a low heat.
4. Slowly add the same volume of caster sugar (i.e. 1½ cups) whilst stirring (with a metal rather than a wooden spoon).
5. Continue to stir over heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
6. Allow to cool, fine strain into a bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
So now you have groseille syrup you should reach for the Irish whiskey and make yourself an Artists Special Cocktail - essentially a whiskey sour with sherry and groseille syrup. Our Artists Special recipe also details this cocktails rich history - it first appears in print in Harry McElhone's 1927 Barflies and Cocktails.
Barflies and Cocktails 1927
The same recipe appears in Harry Craddock's 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book which also includes the second best-known cocktail using groseille, the Nineteen Twenty Cocktail.
The Savoy Cocktail Book 1930