As a kid, rhubarb played a pivotal role in my life. It was a literal role, actually. One on the stage. If you're acting in a crowd scene, someone told me, and everyone mumbles, "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb," it sounds from the audience like there are lots of real conversations going on. This is a big deal to a 12 year old in a school play.
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Everyone has their spring rituals—mine is getting my hands on some rhubarb. I start circling my favorite greenmarket stands in mid-April, waiting less-than-patiently for the humble pink stalks to show up. A homemade shrub syrup is the ideal way to feature rhubarb in cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.
A muted, orangey pink, the Rhubarb Blush from Pok Pok Ny is like a lovely liquid SweeTart. Here's the recipe so you can make it at home.
Rhubarb is one of my favorite cocktail ingredients. When rhubarb season arrived, I ran to buy as much as I could from the market that's usually first to get all the seasonal produce. When I couldn't find it, I went to the manager in a panic. "We used to stock that," he said. "But nobody likes it, so we stopped." I then dramatically flung myself onto the nearest support beam and screamed, "Noooooo!" as if I just found out Darth Vader was my father. (He is not.) Luckily, the next store had a whole display of rhubarb and promised me that they would keep stocking it throughout the season.
I have a rule when it comes to strawberries—I wait to buy them until they make their way to the farmers' market. Nothing compares to that first day when you see them, or more accurately, smell them. But the other day when I was in my local grocery, I smelled that scent of real, ripe, flavorful berries, then examined the berries to make sure I wasn't going crazy. I broke my rule. I just couldn't resist them. I immediately ate one as soon as I left, hoping that my nose didn't deceive me—the berry was flavorful. Of course I started plotting out what to do with my preseason score.
Things you won't see me drinking a lot of these days: Day-Glo margaritas in flavors like "Blue (Berry) Monster" and "Razz-Ma-Tazz." I like my tazz unrazzed, thanks. These five real-fruit margaritas are everything we want fruity drinks to be: balanced, flavorful, not too sweet, not too sharp or strong, and totally refreshing. Plus, they're easy to make for a group.
Since rhubarb is on the tart side, it's often paired with sweet, summery fruits like strawberry or raspberry, but one of my favorite rhubarb combos is rhubarb and ginger—especially in a light, refreshing cocktail.
Somehow, flavored beers like pumpkin ale or raspberry beer seem more appropriate for the transitional seasons. With warm weather coming sooner than any of us anticipated, we've got a head start on rhubarb, as well as an early debut to one of my favorite warm weather activities, outdoor drinking. Sometimes there's no better way to relax than sitting at a table, soaking up the sun with a beer in hand.
Because I'm often so eager to see rhubarb, I think it's only fair to let the flavor shine. A simple squeeze of lime paired with gin and seltzer provide a bright, slightly herbal base to let the rhubarb flavor come forward. The result is a light, effervescent cocktail that's the perfect way to usher in the beginning of a bountiful season.
Q: What do a Native American medicinal herbal drink, lebkuchen, and a legendary (if possibly apocryphal) tea brewed by Benjamin Franklin have in common? A: They've all served as the inspiration for unique and exciting liqueurs from Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
In Portland, Oregon—like in many cities—brunch and breakfast establishments abound. It's not that we're too lazy to make our own breakfast and brunch; it's just that there are so many good places to eat out, that why would we bother messing up our own kitchens with biscuits and gravy or eggs Benny? But now that I have the recipe for this delicious brunch drink, I may be brunching at home more often.
It's the season for strawberry-rhubarb pies and cobblers—but when you can't justify eating dessert just yet, the answer is to incorporate those sweet-tart elements into a drink. This strawberry-rhubarb iced tea showcases the flavor of rhubarb and the gorgeous red color of early summer strawberries.