With warmer weather inching its way into New York, I felt inspired to make a fresh spring cocktail. Well, I did some experimenting, and while my first inclination was to use strawberries, I found piles of rhubarb at the farmers market — and came up instead with this lovely pink concoction.
Rhubarb definitely needs to be sweetened up from its natural state, especially for a warm-weather cocktail, so I cooked it down with some sugar and made a purée.
I cut some basil into ribbons, bruised it a bit with the back of a spoon, and stirred in the rhubarb, liquor, and club soda. In the name of, ahem, thorough research, I tasted two versions — one with gin, one with vodka — and determined that the complexity of rhubarb and the herbal flavor of the basil needed a less flavorful alcohol. Vodka it was.
With its preppy palette of blushing pink and grassy green leaves, I have to say that this is one of the prettiest cocktails I've had in a while.
Elizabeth certainly knows how to ring in spring. Tart rhubarb and fresh basil blended into a refreshing cocktail — I'm more than happy to follow her lead.
It's still a little early for rhubarb here in New York, so the few stalks I found at my local market didn't quite have the tart, punchy zing I've come to expect from rhubarb. That should all change in a few weeks, though. But even so, this cocktail is light and refreshing. It's the exact kind of drink I crave this time of year, and what I want to be sipping on hot summer afternoons.
What I really love about this pretty cocktail is that it's equally wonderful served as is, or made as a non-alcoholic spritzer.
- Kelli, April 2015
Rhubarb Basil Cocktail
Makes 1 drink
3 medium to large basil leaves, rolled and cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons rhubarb purée (recipe follows)
1 1/2 ounces vodka
Put the basil in the bottom of a glass and press with the back of a spoon to bruise slightly. Add the rhubarb purée and stir. Add vodka and ice cubes and top with club soda. Garnish with a basil leaf.
Makes about 2 cups
12 to 13 stalks of rhubarb
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Chop the rhubarb into small 1/2-inch pieces. Put in a medium saucepan with the sugar and water. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender) and purée until smooth. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the rhubarb through the strainer, pressing to get as much of the rhubarb pulp out as possible. Discard the leftover fibrous bits.
This recipe has been updated. Originally posted May 2008.
- Use the leftover rhubarb purée from this cocktail poured over ice cream, or stir into a rhubarb fool.
(Image credits: Kelli Dunn)