Strawberry-Rhubarb syrup ready for straining.
My friend Julia generously brought me some rhubarb from her P-patch when I said I had some recipes to try. In fact, she chopped and delivered it to me mere hours after I mentioned it, which even Amazon Fresh can’t beat.
It’s possible that I’ve tried rhubarb before, but I’m certain I’ve never actually touched it. Employing my lack-of-cooking skills, I hammered out two different rhubarb syrups and tried them in three drink recipes (one a mocktail). This may be the very first time that others can benefit from my food preparation (and that includes consuming it).
First, I went for the Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup because our friend B.O.B. raves about Plush Pippin’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. Then again, he is the only man I know who visits Mexico and solely eats at Italian restaurants. This syrup is used in the Josef the Spy cocktail from Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2009 book:
Josef the Spy
1 oz tequila
½ oz Cointreau or other triple sec (I used Cointreau)
3 oz strawberry-rhubarb syrup (see below)
3 drops balsamic vinegar
1 oz chilled Sprite
Trim and chop 4 stalks of rhubarb, then puree in blender with 2 ½ oz (1/2 cup) hulled strawberries and 1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled until sugar is dissolved) until smooth. Strain the syrup into a jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Makes 14 oz (note: mine made maybe 8 oz once strained).
I found this syrup recipe rather unwieldy. The fibrous rhubarb was a lot for my blender to handle, and was definitely too much for my fine-mesh sieve. It took a couple trips through the sieve, and I felt like I got too little syrup for the effort. If I’m going to make that effort, I want it to last longer than four days. Most syrups last for 3-4 weeks refrigerated; so what makes this one so special?
Did the syrup redeem itself in the cocktail? Sadly, not really. This recipe particularly intrigued me because of the balsamic vinegar, and I was curious what it could do in a cocktail. Josef the Spy (OK, who named this??) was too sweet for me; Red Hook said it was “good not great” with a strawberry burst that hits later. I added some lime juice to tart it up (like when I’m going out for the night), but it failed to make a dent. If I were to try it again, I would substitute club soda for the Sprite and reduce the strawberry-rhubarb syrup to 2 ounces instead of three.
On a happy note, my kids loved the syrup mixed with sparkling water. They balked at trying rhubarb, but after being bribed discovered a new form of produce that they like. Even I can’t complain about that. (By the way, I had to google to see what to call rhubarb. Is it a fruit or vegetable? Clearly it is a common question because I only had to type “is rhubarb a” and the answer came right up: it is an ornamental vegetable.)
I decided to try the Rhubarb Cooler from Portland restaurant owner Lucy Brennan’s Hip Sips book mostly because I had the fresh rhubarb and was curious how the drinks – and differing rhubarb syrups – would compare. The results surprised me.
1 ½ oz gin (I used plain ol’ Tanqueray)
¼ oz lemon juice
¼ oz lime juice
1 oz rhubarb syrup
Splash of soda water
Fill shaker with ice and add gin, lemon & lime juices and rhubarb syrup. Shake well, then pour into ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with lime wedge.
6 stalks of rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Combine all ingredients into saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until rhubarb is very tender and liquid coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
I made a half recipe of the syrup because I had just three stalks left. This syrup is more like the usual infused simple syrups, where the flavor is steeped into the syrup. It was also much easier to strain than the Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup because I could spoon out the bulkier solids first. I also liked that it keeps for a month and is a pretty pink color while the other syrup is a bit brownish.
Here you can see the difference in color between the two rhubarb drinks. The Josef the Spy is in the Collins glass on the left. Although the Rhubarb Cooler calls for a Collins glass, I chose a martini glass without ice.
So, easier, prettier and longer-lasting…and makes a fabulous drink! I have only recently learned to like some gins and Red Hook is not a fan (he recoiled at the gin smell before tasting), but we both liked this one. The Rhubarb Syrup really complimented the gin, and the cocktail is good enough to go in my “favorites” book. This would be a great choice for a brunch or shower, too. I’ll bet it would also be good with sparkling water, giving a non-alcohol option for guests.
I may try the Josef the Spy again, but I’ll use the Rhubarb Syrup with muddled strawberries or blackberries instead. And I’ll cut the sugar in the syrup down to ¾ cup or so; I can always add in a bit of simple syrup later if it proves too tart.
It’s always satisfying to find (and share) and winning cocktail. Enjoy!
Look, pictures! I’m upping my blog game by adding pictures of my trials. Before you judge, I readily admit that my photography skills are lacking. Even though the drinks weren’t sticking out their tongues, strangling each other or shaking their booties like my usual subjects, getting the right shot was tricky.