The Rhubarberol Cocktail

by Talley

in Beverage,Cocktail

In our yard, the first edible plant plant to emerge in the spring is our neighbor’s rhubarb. It’s ready to go before the asparagus, before the baby lettuces, and, since our neighbor seems to condone it, we happily avail ourselves of the resource (Gwen, next time we see you we’re going to greet you with this drink). But what do you do when you have a glut of gorgeous rhubarb and no strawberries to speak of? Rhubarb cocktails!

rhubarb cocktailRhubarb has a biting sourness and a great tannic mouthfeel that makes it a perfect substitute for citrus in cocktails, and yet, it’s surprisingly rare ingredient on your average cocktail list. The following cocktail nicely captures the essence of rhubarb, with its distinctive flavor and slight bitterness. The rhubarb is used to make a light syrup that could really be incorporated into a variety of drinks. Here it’s mixed with gin and Aperol, which is an Italian aperitif that also lists rhubarb among it’s multiple ingredients. If you can’t find Aperol, you should still make this syrup and mix it with your spirits, but the Aperol provides a bitterness and a balance that makes this drink one of my new spring-time favorites.

rhubarb cocktailAs a side note, were you aware that rhubarb is legally classified in the US as a fruit? It’s true! Even though it’s technically a vegetable, a US Customs Court ruled in 1947 that since rhubarb was mainly used as a “fruit” it would be classified as such. This effectively allowed rhubarb to be imported with a lower tariff than if it were classified a vegetable.

The Rhubarberol Cocktail

Light rhubarb syrup

  • a bunch of rhubarb stalks (depending on how much syrup you want to end up with), cut into chunks
  • light simple syrup to cover (2 parts water to 1 part sugar, heated until dissolved)

Pack the rhubarb into a saucepan and barely cover with simple syrup, you want this to be as intensely flavored as possible. Simmer on low until the rhubarb is falling apart, about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth into a jar and store in the fridge until ready to use. This syrup will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

The Rhubarberol

  • 1 small stalk fresh rhubarb (about 25 grams)
  • 2 oz gin (use a gin that’s not too strong on the juniper here. I like DH Krahn for this drink, and New Amsterdam would work well here as well… unlike most other gin drinks if you ask me).
  • 1½ oz rhubarb syrup
  • ½ Aperol
  • 1 or 2 dashes Fee’s Orange Bitters (optional: other orange bitters such as Regan’s might be a bit too strong for this drink)

Muddle the fresh rhubarb stalk in a cocktail shaker. Add the gin, rhubarb syrup, Aperol, and a dash or two of orange bitters. Add ice and stir until chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a very thinly sliced twist of rhubarb stalk (I used a sharp knife, but a mandolin or a vegetable peeler might work as well).

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What are your desert island cocktails? + thirteen other links - The Jolly Inebriate
May 14, 2010 at 10:56 pm

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tokyo Terrace May 5, 2010 at 8:58 pm

This is a beautiful cocktail! I love the vibrant color and the fact that you used rhubarb. I will have to try this when I am in Minnesota this summer. Looks tasty!
.-= Tokyo Terrace´s last blog ..Simplicity Amidst the Chaos: Cherry Tomato, Snap Peas & a Fried Egg =-.


liz@zested May 6, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Awesome photo and recipe! I am going to give this a try this weekend.
.-= liz@zested´s last blog ..Austin on an iPhone =-.


Stephanie May 8, 2010 at 2:14 am

This looks great! I am a little fixated on rhubarb at the moment, and it’s great to see it being used in an unexpected way. Thanks for the recipe!


sippitysup May 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm

This is so weirdly coincidental! I have experimenting with a rhubarb cocktail I saw in Southwest Airlines magazine the last couple of nights. I was wondering if people would be open to it. So I do a google search and here you are fully embracing it! It’s pretty much all the same ingredients but put together quite differently. Yours is much prettier. You give me the courage to try and adapt the one I saw in the magazine to better suit my tastes, or better yet maybe I’ll just try yours. Thanks GREG


Talley May 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

thanks greg, I think rhubarb is ripe for a little embracing! (outside of rhubarb pie that is . . . which is already well loved). I’m a fan of your blog, I’ll keep an eye out for your rhubarb cocktail experiments, and let us know if you get around to trying this one. This one is definitely more on the “easy drinking” side of things, and I’d love to make a stronger–and probably more bitter–variation as well. might need some more of the muddled rhubarb and less of the syrup, maybe a different base spirit?… Anyway, thanks for stopping by.


sippitysup May 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I accept the challenge give me about a week. I am in the beginning of a week long tribute to my mother’s recipes. GREG
.-= sippitysup´s last blog ..Judi’s Bistro- Twice Baked Potatoes =-.


Eric May 14, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Good call on the bitters — that helped put the finishing touch on a similar cocktail I’ve been toying with. I’ve taken the liberty of naming it after one of the ingredients (the pear), as well as a Grover I know.

** Grover **
1.5 oz vodka
1 oz Aperol
1/2 oz fresh raw rhubarb juice*
~3/8 oz pear liqueur**
1-2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist, or maybe one of those gorgeous rhubarb twists shown in Talley’s photos.
* Muddle and strain, or use food processor and strain. Straining 1/2 hour in advance helps let the sediment settle out. As a very rough guess, I’d say you could get up to a couple ounces of juice from one fat stalk.
** This will control the sweetness. I used Clear Creek Pear Liqueur (23% alcohol, not to be confused with pear brandy) when tuning this recipe. You may need to adjust up or down, or add simple syrup, depending on the pear alcohol you work with.

I normally skip the vodka cocktails, but I’ve become convinced that it works much better than gin when working with rhubarb. There are probably some great whiskey and rhubarb cocktails out there waiting to be discovered, but I haven’t found them yet.



Dug July 24, 2010 at 6:25 am

I hadn’t thought to mix rhubarb and gin. This is one to add to the “to try” list I am keeping.

I bet it is awesome with some ginger as well.


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