By Brian Mitchell, Corporate Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group
Rhubarb is an early spring ripening plant in the northeast US, and it has been a favorite addition in desserts for many years, especially this time of year where it is often found paired with the seasonal strawberries. With its slightly tart side, it works especially well with sweet berry flavors in pastry desserts such as pies.
Technically classified in 1947, by the US Government as a fruit, as this is how it predominantly used, rhubarb is a plant that grows around the world in moderate climates. Because it is an early ripening perennial it is often ready to eat just about the time strawberries are in season, adding to the close association of the two foods. We make use of the petioles, which are the stem-like parts that hold the large leaves. These look like large stalks and are usually sliced up or pureed to be used in cooking.
This past Friday night (June 14th), I made a cocktail using some rhubarb and other ingredients. This drink was a featured cocktail at the first Chef to Farm Dinner at Rosedale Farm in Simsbury, CT., and was served alongside the amuse course. It is a light and refreshing drink with a sweet/tart component plus that added floral component from the gin. I received so many requests for the recipe that I am listing it here.
Rhubarb Botanical (this was served in a Mason jar, so the overall size is about 16oz)
1.5 ounces rhubarb syrup/puree (see below)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1.5 ounces Cold River Gin (Maine)
dash of home-made Meyer lemon bitters (or similar)
2-3 ounces tonic water
mix everything in Mason jar or highball glass except tonic, fill with ice and then top with tonic
Garnish with sliced strawberries
1-2 stalks of rhubarb in a quart of simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar)
let soak 24-48 hours, puree some or all of the rhubarb for added texture