If you didn’t grow up with strawberry rhubarb pies cooling on the counter and rhubarb jam available in the fridge, then the pink and stalk-like rhubarb plant (technically a vegetable, although it’s usually used like a fruit) probably seems a bit mysterious … and the devotion shown by its fans may raise some questions. What’s so special about this celery-esque spring produce, anyway?
The answer lies in the bright tartness of the rhubarb stalk, which sweetens and mellows when it’s cooked. This welcome zing of acidity makes rhubarb a valuable addition to desserts, pastries, jellies, and even cocktails. Professional bartenders love to use rhubarb in their drinks when it’s in season, and these 7 cocktail recipes put rhubarb front and center.
Vodka Rhubarb Mint Julep
Mint juleps traditionally include bourbon as their anchor spirit, but in his lighter spin on the classic, head bartender Jeremy Le Blanche of queensyard in New York City replaces brown liquor with vodka and adds rhubarb to his mint-infused syrup. “Juleps are the kind of cocktails I crave in the spring, as they are always great to make with seasonal ingredients, like rhubarb and mint,” Le Blanche tells us.
- 2 oz vodka (Le Blanche prefers Wheatley Vodka)
- .5-1 oz rhubarb mint syrup*
- Finely cracked or pebbled ice
- Fresh mint, to taste
- Fill a glass three-quarters of the way with ice.
- Pour 2 oz of vodka and .5-1 oz of syrup (depending on sweetness preference) over the ice and stir the julep for 15-20 seconds with a straw.
- Leave the straw inserted and pack the rest of your glass full of ice.
- Select a sprig of mint and “spank” it across the back of your hand to release the oils before inserting it next to the straw (you want to be able to smell it as you drink).
- Garnish with fruit and wait an additional minute for frost to form before serving.
*Rhubarb Mint Syrup:
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and gradually add in 1 cup of sugar.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and add in 2 cups of chopped rhubarb stalks. Lightly simmer the rhubarb for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (do not let the syrup boil and burn).
- Add in 1 bunch of mint leaves and reduce heat to a very low simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and allow the mixture to sit for another 5 minutes before straining out the rhubarb and mint leaves.
- Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature, then pour into an airtight container and refrigerate. The syrup will last for 5-7 days refrigerated.
By using rhubarb syrup in lieu of vermouth, bar manager Roman Kristek of Blu Bar on 36 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney, Australia brings a spring-appropriate lightness to a gin martini with a lemon twist.
- 2.5 oz gin
- 2 oz rhubarb syrup*
- .5 oz lemon juice
- Add gin, rhubarb syrup, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and top with ice. After shaking for approximately 30 seconds, taste to check for sweetness. Adjust by adding more lemon juice (if too sweet) or more syrup (if too sour).
- Double-strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe.
- Garnish with a piece of rhubarb and a lemon twist.
- Cut 10.5 oz of rhubarb into slices and add to a pot with .2 oz white sugar and 2.6 oz water. Put heat on low and simmer until the sugar dissolves and the rhubarb is tender.
- Pour the liquid into a bowl through a sieve and discard solids. Pour the liquid back into the pot and boil until it forms a syrupy texture. Pour into a heatproof container and allow to cool.
Singani Rhubarb Spritz
A Bolivian spirit often compared to Peruvian and Chilean pisco, Singani features a botanical nose and a gently fruit-forward flavor profile, which makes it a fitting partner for tangy rhubarb. At least, that’s what beverage director Caitlin Conn of Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, Vermont thinks. She uses both Singani and rhubarb in her seasonal spritz, explaining that “preserving fresh spring rhubarb in a shrub captures its robust flavor long past its growing season, I love how the tartness of rhubarb complements the bright floral notes of Singani without overpowering [them]. Refreshing and satisfying!”
- 1.5 oz Singani (Conn prefers Singani 63)
- .75 oz rhubarb shrub*
- .75 oz strawberry simple syrup *
- 2-3 oz Prosecco
- Add Singani and shrub to a shaker and shake to combine.
- Strain into a glass over ice, top with Prosecco, and garnish with a rosemary sprig.
- Chop 2 lbs of rhubarb stalks and add to a saucepan with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of champagne vinegar. Stir to combine and cook over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to stir until the rhubarb completely softens (15-20 mins).
- Strain the mixture through fine mesh and discard the solids.
*Strawberry Simple Syrup:
- Combine equal parts strawberries and Demerara sugar in a saucepan and cover with half as much water (1 cup strawberries, 1 cup sugar, .5 cup water, for example). Bring to a simmer and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the fruit breaks down (10-15 mins).
- Strain through fine mesh and discard solids.
“One of my favorite spring-summer libations is the Rhu-berry Mojito. When the sun is shining so bright, the first thought that comes to mind is a cold, crisp cocktail. The Rhu-berry Mojito is a perfectly refreshing solution that gives you an opportunity to experiment with a variety of seasonal ingredients. Use your imagination and modify the recipe to match your preferences!” mixologist Slava Borisov of Travelle at the Langham in Chicago says of this rum cocktail, which blends the sweetness of spring berries with the tartness of rhubarb to delicious effect.
- 1.5 oz rhubarb-lemongrass infused rum*
- .75 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
- .5 oz simple syrup*
- 5-7 seasonal berries (blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries)
- 7 mint leaves
- 4 drops Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 drops rhubarb bitters
- Soda water
- Add rhubarb-lemongrass infused rum, lime juice, simple syrup, seasonal berries, and mint to a highball (tall) glass. Gently muddle the ingredients.
- Add half a glass of crushed ice and stir the drink with a bar spoon. Add another half glass of crushed ice and top with soda water. Gently stir with a bar spoon.
- Apply Peychaud’s bitter and rhubarb bitter to the top of the cocktail. Garnish with a mint sprig, berries and a rhubarb or lemongrass stalk.
*Rhubarb-Lemongrass Infused Rum:
- Cut 9 oz of rhubarb stalks and 3 stalks of lemongrass into 1 to 2-inch long pieces and add to a large Mason jar or container with a tight lid. Add 6 oz of granulated sugar to the cut stalks.
- Close the lid and shake well to combine the ingredients. Let it sit for 12 hours.
- Add a 25 oz bottle of rum into the container. Silver unaged rums like Cana Brava, Don Q, or Havana Club work best. It should be ready within 2-4 weeks depending on your flavor preference. The longer it infuses, the more flavor you extract from the rhubarb and lemongrass. Find your ideal balance!
- When finished infusing, double strain the liquid to separate out all solids.
- Measure by weight equal proportions of granulated sugar and warm water.
- Add to a jar and mix together until the sugar is fully dissolved. Keep syrup refrigerated.
The Spring Equinox
A spirit made by distilling wine, brandy — like the famous French version known as Cognac — is most popular as an after-dinner drink. But by combining it with a floral liqueur and plenty of bright fruit ingredients (including rhubarb, of course), you can give this digestif a refreshing makeover that makes it a great fit for day drinking. When it comes to her Spring Equinox cocktail, owner Kirsty Sinclair of Aloha Bars in Maui insists that “this cocktail recipe combines the subtlety of elderflower, rhubarb, strawberry, and lemon while the Cognac mimics the warmth of our island’s ‘endless summer’.”
- 2 oz Cognac (Sinclair prefers VSOP Cognac)
- .5 oz elderflower liqueur
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz rhubarb puree
- .5 oz strawberry puree
- 2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake to combine.
- Strain over ice, then garnish with a spring flower.
Raspberry Rhubarb Margarita
Tequila and acidity (usually from citrus fruits) make for an unquestionably harmonious combination, and owner Jessica Randhawa of The Forked Spoon also likes to invite rhubarb to her margarita parties. “Rhubarb makes these spring cocktails slightly tangy, which complements the sweetness from the raspberries nicely. Cooking the rhubarb per the recipe also happens to give this tasty cocktail a beautiful pink color that is 100% natural,” Randhawa explains.
- 2 oz tequila blanco
- 2 oz fresh lime juice
- 2 oz raspberry rhubarb syrup*
- 2-3 jalapeño slices
- Fresh raspberries, limes, and jalapeño, for garnish
- Place a thin layer of flake salt on a small plate. Rim glass with lime juice and dip each glass into the salt. Set aside.
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and 2-3 jalapeño slices. Add the tequila, lime juice, and raspberry rhubarb syrup to the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
- Fill prepared glass with ice and, using a cocktail strainer, pour the mixture over the ice. Garnish with fresh limes, fresh raspberries, and jalapeño slices, if desired.
Raspberry Rhubarb Syrup:
- Add .5 cup chopped rhubarb, .75 cup raspberries, 1 cup water, .5 cup sugar, and the juice of .5 a lemon to a small saucepot and cook over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a low boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, mash the rhubarb and raspberries with the back of a fork or a wooden spoon.
- Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, extracting as much liquid as possible. Pour the liquid into a jar or sealed container and place in the refrigerator to cool.
A classic Italian liqueur with a flavor profile and color similar to that of yellow chartreuse, Strega delivers plenty of herbaceous notes, such as saffron, mint, and juniper. Its unique taste blend lends itself well to cocktails (especially if you enjoy bold flavors), and bartender Constance Zaytoun of Le Zie Trattoria in New York City likes to balance the botanical presence of Strega and vermouth with homemade rhubarb water, which “provides the means to taste the true essence of rhubarb. Plus, it’s a gorgeous pink color.”
- 1 oz white vermouth (Zaytoun prefers C. Comoz Vermouth Blanc)
- .5 oz Liquore Strega
- 1.5 oz rhubarb water*
- .5 oz fresh lime juice
- Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake to combine.
- Strain into a glass over ice and garnish with rhubarb and mint.
- Roughly chop 1 lb of rhubarb.
- Boil 2 cups of water and pour over the chopped rhubarb. Cover and allow to sit overnight.
- Strain rhubarb-infused water into a saucepan and add ⅓ cup raw honey and the juice of .5 a lemon.
- Simmer until honey dissolves, then remove from heat and store in the refrigerator until cool.
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