Summer Libations: Rhubarb Cordial and a Cocktail

This one required some patience. But the wait was well worth it.

Back in June rhubarb started showing up on fruit stands. This is how you know it’s now the best time of the year (further confirmed a bit later when peaches start showing up too). However, I’m always bewildered at how much I end up paying for rhubarb in the city, when I know it primarily as a weed that won’t stop growing, housed in backyards, where it comes back bigger and bigger every year. But I don’t have a backyard, so I suck it up and pay $6 for a bunch of rhubarb stalks.

Now, in previous years I’ve gone for the obvious: strawberry + rhubarb (pie, compote, syrup, etc.), but I’ve recently come to realize that, while strawberries and rhubarb are certainly a winning pair, it never really allows rhubarb to truly shine. It’s so tart and bright and a tiny bit herbal, that it really deserves it’s chance in the spotlight.

When I stumbled upon this rhubarb cordial recipe from Food52, I was immediately smitten. The recipe calls for steeping the rhubarb in vodka, but I couldn’t help but think of how nicely a gin and rhubarb cocktail goes down. It seemed to me that the aromatics of gin would really perk up that rhubarb flavour and, rather than masking it or overpowering it, the gin would complement it, and play to its strengths. So I decided to use gin. I think I made the right decision. Other thank swapping gin for the vodka, I used an entire quart of Bombay Sapphire. Nothing too fancy. I used the full cup of sugar, and I’m glad that I did.

You’ll notice that the major downside to this process is the entire month that you then have to wait, before you can enjoy the fruits of your labour. (To be honest, there is not much labour involved at all). Once the month-long wait was up, I strained the fruit out of the gin using a fine meshed sieve, and to really make sure I didn’t waste a single drop, I then squeezed the fruit with a clean kitchen towel (cheesecloth would also work great).

I was super pleased with the final result. This cordial is bright and and just sweet enough to enjoy on it’s own in a glass with some ice. And it tastes like pure unadulterated rhubarb. You could also enjoy it with some soda water or tonic, but I really the best way to drink it is straight. You’ll find that some sediment eventually settles at the bottom of the bottle, and if you give it a quick shake before pouring some out, the flavour will be much better.
Now, I understand that sometimes we want to wow our guests with a cocktail. As delicious as this cordial is on its own, sometimes you want to bust out the shaker and the fancy glasses, and really impress people. Or just impress yourself.

I poked around online for some tasty cocktail I could make using this rhubarb cordial, but in the end I already had an idea in mind, so I cobbled together what I have decided to call a rhubarb-ginger sour.  Here’s a very rough recipe, for two cocktails:

-5 oz Rhubarb Cordial

-Juice of 1 small lemon

-1 thumb-sized lump of ginger root, peeled and sliced into coins

-1 oz fresh eqq white

In a cocktail shaker, combine the first 3 ingredients. Use a muddler to muddle the ginger. Add a generous amount of ice, and the egg white. Cover the shaker and shake it vigorously for one minute. Pour the strained cocktail into a cocktail glass of your choice (I favour a nice coupe, personally. It feels fancy!), garnish with some bitters (I went with lime) and some candied ginger, if you’re feeling fancy. Enjoy!


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