Courtesy of Blue Hill Stone Barns
Often baked into pies to balance the sweetness of fruits like strawberries, tart rhubarb—landing in markets now—is a versatile ingredient for early spring cocktails. The vegetable can be made into jam, infused with bitters or squeezed fresh for a diverse mix of seasonal drinks.
Known for using produce like avocados and beets in cocktails at Mint/820—her Latin spot in Portland, Oregon—owner Lucy Brennan cooks a lightly sweetened rhubarb purée for her Rhubarb Cooler, similar to a Tom Collins, with gin, lemon juice and soda. Since its inception, the vibrantly pink drink has become a cult favorite in the area. “People call and say, ‘Is the Rhubarb Cooler in yet?’” Brennan says. A London bartender conceived the first Tom Collins and Brennan’s rhubarb inspiration also came from the UK, where her mother made delicious pies with the bright red stalks. “The rhubarb adds texture,” Brennan says. “It’s not too sweet, not too tart, it’s just fun to play with.”
Here are some other bars getting a jump on rhubarb season:
The Esquire Tavern, San Antonio, TX: Opened in 1933 at the end of Prohibition, the old-school tavern serves a Bittersweet Symphony: rye whiskey, Aperol, Fernet, Carpano Antica (an Italian sweet vermouth) and rhubarb bitters.
Blue Hill Stone Barns, Tarrytown, NY: The newest cocktail created by this ultra-seasonal restaurant at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a take on a fizz (above) with fresh rhubarb juice, house-made ginger syrup, egg white and proprietary Blue Hill Spring Gin, made in small batches with StilltheOne Distillery in Port Chester, NY.
DMK Burger Bar, Chicago: The joint venture between Chicago chefs Michael Kornick and David Morton offers Madam Geneva’s Rhubarb Delight year-round: Hendricks gin, lime soda and homemade rhubarb-ginger jam, which is both mixed in and served atop the cocktail in a small spoon so that drinkers can adjust the sweetness as they sip.
15 Romolo, San Francisco: Mixologist Ian Adams named his drink after Salome’s seductive Dance of the Seven Veils. The Seventh Veil combines Aperol, St. Germain, Rhuby (a Swedish rhubarb liqueur) and sparkling wine in a flute.