Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rhubarb Cocktails Anyone?

Offer me a glass of wine and surely I will oblige, but it wouldn't be my first choice.  Offer me a beer and I will likely stick with my glass of water...unless, of course, it is a beautiful Belgian beer from Brasserie V.  My first choice and true love is hard liquor.  I don't know if it's my Slovenian, German, or Irish roots (pick one, they all like to drink), or simply my midwestern upbringing, but I love a good cocktail.  Sometimes I like them clean and simple...A good whiskey with a good vermouth and a twist of orange.  And sometimes the crazier the better, think gourmet meal in a glass.  Cocktails can be tailored for every mood and occasion.

Every year when it comes time to preserve fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season I am always looking for new recipes and new ideas.  A couple of years ago my love for liquor took a new twist when I started playing with making some of my own flavored infusions. Last year during Rhubarb season I needed some inspiration and Nigella Lawson gave me just that.  I had reached my quota of putting up frozen rhubarb, sweet rhubarb sauce, and savory rhubarb brown sauce.  And though I love Rhubarb Kuchen, I'm not a baker and there's only so much one can do with rhubarb.  Through her cookbook "How to be a Domestic Goddess" Nigella tempted me with Rhubarb Schnapps and a new way for me to enjoy both rhubarb and liquor was born.  

Making infusions is so very easy and so very fun.  You just have to have a little patience.  
Since I have less than a little patience, I only let my first batch sit the minimum required 6 weeks.  When I strained it, it definitely had a nice rhubarb flavor but it was very mild.  I wasn't quite sure what to do with it as it's mild flavor wouldn't really hold up to other ingredients, so I only drank a small amount over the summer. Usually I had it with a little ice mixed with lemonade. It is true that things get better with age.  This spring I pulled out my Rhubarb Schnapps jar thinking I should probably drink what was left to make room for a new batch.  I am so glad I had some left over because it had gotten better over time.  The rhubarb flavor had intensified a little and the whole concoction had developed a smoother and richer flavor.

I was still on the lookout, however, for the perfect mixer.   Fate stepped in and while at Metcalfe's Market recently I stumbled upon Dry Soda.  This stuff is amazing!  It's all natural, just lightly sweetened (with pure cane sugar), and comes in array of interesting flavors.  I scooped up a 4-pack each of the Lavender and Rhubarb and couldn't wait to get home to start mixing.  The experiment was a huge success and I now have a new favorite early summer cocktail to enjoy!  I liked the Lavender and Rhubarb sodas equally well as they each brought something different to the drink.  Not being a soda drinker, I was also surprised to find that I enjoy drinking these Dry Sodas on their own.

Here is my adaptation of Nigella Lawson's
Rhubarb Schnapps

  • 1 lg bunch Rhubarb- sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces to make 4 C.
  • 2 C. sugar
  • Approx 4 C. vodka- you can use whatever cheap vodka you like (I used Tito's as it's one of my favorites and is small batch from Texas...if you're looking for a local vodka you will find it in Yahara Bay, Death's Door, 45th Parallel, Rehorst Premium Milwaukee, and Prairie Organic...all at a slightly higher price point)
  • 1 half gallon Ball jar with lid (these can be found at Farm & Fleet)

1.  Place sliced rhubarb in jar

2.  Pour in sugar, cover with lid, and shake vigorously to disperse sugar.

3.  Pour vodka over sugar & rhubarb until jar is filled to within an inch or so of very top.

4.  Replace lid and shake vigorously again.

5.  Place jar in cool dark place. Shake once daily for first week, then let sit for a minimum of six weeks and up to 6 months.

6.  After resting for desired amount of time, strain liquid.  Discard solids and reserve liquid back to jar, cover with lid, store in cool dark place and enjoy in moderation. :)

Rhubarb Cocktail

Glass, ice, 1 part Rhubarb Schnapps, 2 parts Lavender or Rhubarb Dry Soda.  Perhaps even add a few drops of Bittercube Jamaica #2 bitters.

(If you love making your own cocktails and are unfamiliar with Bittercube, you must check them out!)

Just for is another unique idea for using your rhubarb.  I got this recipe from a new friend, Amy K., who I met on a recent A World of Flavors Walking Food Tour in Madison's Atwood neighborhood.  (More on that another time)  She told me she makes Rhubarb Salsa and finds it to be a tasty alternative to traditional salsa this time of year.  She was gracious enough to share her recipe with me.  I haven't tried it yet, but thought it to be too interesting not to share.  Let me know what you think!!

Rhubarb Salsa
1 1/2 C. finely diced rhubarb
1/2  C. finely diced sweet bell pepper (use orange or yellow for a nice color contrast...and thanks to hoop houses, I actually saw yellow bell peppers at the farmer's market yesterday!)
1/2 C. diced red onion or green onion
1-2 diced jalapenos
2-3 Tbls chopped chives (if not using green onion)
Chopped cilantro to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lime
2-3 Tbls vinegar (I will probably use Apple Cider Vinegar)
1Tbls honey + 1 tsp sugar
a pinch of salt
The original recipe suggested adding ground cayenne or chipotle pepper to taste, but she had neither and says her family loved it without.

Toss the ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy!

Do you have an interesting and unique way of using rhubarb?  I'd love to hear about it!! 

1 comment:

  1. Update: I made the Rhubarb Salsa today to share at a party. It was a huge hit! Everyone loved it and so did I! Very unexpected and fun. I happened to have some yellow bell pepper in my freezer from last summer that I used and I didn't have any jalapeño, so I used some thawed Hungarian Wax pepper from my freezer and added some hot pepper sprinkles. I had fresh spring onions on hand so used those and went with the 2 Tbls of cider vinegar. This recipe is definitely a keeper and will for sure make it again before rhubarb season is over!