Rhubarb Season: The Syrup

Every year Tracy and I eagerly await the sight of rhubarb at the farmer's market to herald in the spring. Those bright red stalks with their slightly webbed tops have become a beacon for the coming bounty of artichokes and asparagus to be followed, finally, by summer. Warmer temperatures and that trick of light that some call sunshine are surely on their way, though off somewhere in the distance. We both love rhubarb. Rhubarb crisp, rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb pickles, all things rhubarb are celebrated in our kitchen. This year, I am going to get in on the action, and as a generous coworker recently brought us an obscene amount of chopped rhubarb, three projects are in order. Phase one is rhubarb syrup. Making rhubarb syrup is actually much easier than some of the other syrups I have made. In fact, if someone has already broken down the rhubarb stalks into bite-size chunks, it is scandalously easy.

What you need:

• 1 3/4 cups chopped rhubarb* (1/2-inch chunks)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 5 ounces water
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 ounce 80 proof vodka (optional)


Add rhubarb, water and sugar to a pan. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 or 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, let cool (still covered). Strain through a fine sieve, using a spoon to extract as much of the liquid from the pulp as possible. Pour into a sealable bottle. Optional: add 1/2 oz vodka to stabilize the mixture for longer storage. Keep refrigerated.

(recipe adapted from cocktailvirgin's blog)
*Note: I like my rhubarb syrup to retain some of its characteristic tartness. If you like it sweeter, use less rhubarb or more sugar.  

The first cocktail that we tried using our syrup is also from cocktailvirgin's blog, called the Final Rhuse, which is a variation on the Last Word.

Final Rhuse

3/4 ounce pisco
3/4 ounce yellow chartreuse
3/4 ounce rhubarb syrup
3/4 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Wow is this drink pink—watermelon, pink flamingo pink. The aroma is very herbal, from the chartreuse, though there is a hint of the pisco's smokiness, too. The tanginess of the rhubarb comes across first, followed the lime flavors, which dominate most of the drink. The herbal character of the chartreuse reappears on the swallow while the grape flavors of the pisco and its funkiness linger on the palate. This drink is quite refreshing and a perfect summer cocktail. Tracy though that a thyme garnish would be an appropriate addition to really accentuate the herbal aromas.

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