Spring Cocktail Recipe: Rhubarb Basil Cocktail

Spring Cocktail Recipe: Rhubarb Basil Cocktail

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

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.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Tester's Notes

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
Club soda

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.

Rhubarb Purée

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.

Recipes Notes

  • Use the leftover rhubarb purée from this cocktail poured over ice cream, or stir into a rhubarb fool.
This recipe has been updated. Originally posted May 2008.
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