How to Make a Gastrique

Sarah MickeyAll Recipes, Berry Recipes, Culinary Tips & Techniques, Dessert Sauce Recipes, Dessert Techniques, Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Sauce Recipes, Sweetener Recipes, Vinegar Recipes & Techniques 8 Comments


A gastrique is a vinegar and sugar-based sauce that can be used for either savory or sweet dishes. Its assertive sweet and sour flavor means a little goes a long way. Good balsamic vinegars are often used to make gastrique, but you can also use wine vinegars or fruit vinegars. We chose red wine vinegar for this Cranberry Port Gastrique, which pairs especially well with venison.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, superfine sugar, or organic evaporated cane juice
  • 1 cup water (approximately)
  • A handful of dried cranberries or dried black cherries
  • 1 ¼ cup ruby port
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar


  • Make caramel:


In a saucepan, mix the sugar and enough water (almost a cup) to reach the consistency of wet sand.


Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the mixture begins to take on color. Keep in mind, as water is boiled out, the temperature of the sugar rises above the boiling point of water. The hotter the sugar gets, the faster it cooks. It is possible for some of the sugar to caramelize faster than the rest. If you see darker spots developing in your caramel, stir gently to incorporate them, giving you a better idea of how dark the caramel is becoming overall.

Safety Warning: Cooked sugar (be it for caramel, candy, brittles, meringues, sugar art, etc) is dangerous stuff. It is very sticky and will burn you badly if it touches your skin. Please be extremely careful.

  • Build the sauce:


Remove the caramel from the heat and gently (no splashes) add a handful of diced dried fruit.


Return to the heat and drizzle in the red wine vinegar. Allow the mixture to reduce slightly.


Remove the sauce from the heat again and add the port, return it to the stove and reduce. Pull the sauce from the heat when it has reached the napper stage (it coats the back of a spoon without running off and running your finger through it leaves a clean stripe of visible spoon). The gastrique will continue to thicken as it cools. It will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.
Serve gastrique as a sauce on the plate, or put it on the side for dipping purposes.

Comments 8

  1. I am going to copy this off and send to my brother-in-law and his family. The eat a lot of venison because of the one son being such a hunter. I’m sure they will love this. Thanks for posting this. Lynn A.

  2. Great recipe Matthew. I’m thinking about doing a similar sauce with some of the spices I recently received. The Tellicherry Peppercorns and a pinch or two of cinnamon along with an apple juice base instead of vinegar should give me a really good kind of fall flavor (my favorite time of year) that would be great with chicken (or any game bird, if one could afford it).

  3. Matthew, I’ve been looking at this recipe again and want to make it, and would like to try it out for myself. What sorts of meats would this work on? I’m thinking this might work very well for barbecue. What do you think? Lynn A.

  4. Dear Lynn,

    Gastriques do have several similarities with vinegar-based barbeque sauces, so I think you might have something there. I imagine a carefully balanced gastrique could work with most meats depending on what it was flavored with.

    The easiest paring would probably be to use a fruit gastrique with meats that are already often paired with fruit, such as venison, rabbit, duck, and pork.

    As for using this exact recipe, cherries work very well with most game meats (including the ones I just mentioned). You could also try a turkey/cranberry gastrique combo for a play on the traditional Thanksgiving pairing, although I might back off on the port a tad to lighten it up.

    Hope those suggestions are helpful!


  5. Matthew, This is going to be part of the Easter dinner. I think alongside the cranberries I will put out a gastrique with cranberries in it as an option. My family will like to test this out. This is a great idea. Thanks.

    Lynn A.

  6. How far in advance can this be made? I’d like to make it several days ahead so I have time to test some flavor ideas before Thanksgiving.

  7. Hi Skye,

    Gastrique shelf life can vary depending on what ingredients are used. However, most gastriques can last up to a couple of weeks, so making one a few days ahead should be no problem at all.


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