This rhubarb sour, a fresh take on the classic sour cocktail, calls for a delightful rhubarb syrup (which can be used for something like 101 different drinks), lemon juice, gin, and a twist.
Why a rhubarb sour, you may ask? Because a shot of gin makes everything sour in life go down a little more easily.–David Leite
Rhubarb Sour FAQs
In the spring, the author makes countless batches of this rhubarb syrup, and, according to her, “many cocktails are born out of it.” We concur. In our cocktail tinkerings, we found that vodka works just as nicely as gin in the rhubarb cocktail recipe that follows. The syrup can also be mixed with rum and mint to make a spring mojito.
On the non-boozy side of things, add a splash of soda water to the syrup for a rhubarb soda, and if you’re so inclined, dribble in some cream for an Italian rhubarb soda or, even better, plop in a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a rhubarb float. Or pour some prosecco into a flute containing the syrup. We could go on. But we’d rather hear about the brilliant manner in which you’re imbibing this sweet-tart elixir. Let us know in a comment below.
The first thing you should know is that you should never harvest rhubarb with a knife or scissors. When the stalks are cut off, the part of the stalk that remains withers away, and doesn’t regrow. The proper way to pick your rhubarb is to grab the stalk towards the base of the plant, twist and pull it off with your hands. It should separate fairly easily. This sends a message to the roots to regrow a new stalk, resulting in a healthier plant and plenty of rhubarb in the future. Don’t forget, rhubarb leaves are toxic to humans and animals. Just enjoy the stalks and chuck those leaves into the compost.
For the rhubarb syrup
- 1 pound fresh or frozen rhubarb chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- Additional flavorings, such as a cinnamon stick, star anise, vanilla bean, citrus zest, cardamom pods, juniper berries, or freshly grated nutmeg
For the rhubarb sour
- 3 ounces gin
- 3 ounces rhubarb syrup
- 1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Ice for shaking
- Lemon slice or twist (optional garnish)
Make the rhubarb syrup
- Place the rhubarb, sugar, water, and your choice of flavorings into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly so the mixture continues to boil gently for 15 to 25 minutes, or until it’s reduced by nearly half. The rhubarb will break down and the liquid will get syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
- When the syrup has cooled, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving both the syrup and the stringy rhubarb solids. Transfer the syrup to a storage container with a lid and stash it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. As for the strained rhubarb, it might look stringy and spent, but it’s bursting with a sweet tart flavor that goes spectacularly atop yogurt, muesli, toast, and ice cream.
Make the rhubarb sour
- Combine the gin, rhubarb syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into 2 small coupe glasses. Garnish with lemon, if desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This rhubarb sour cocktail was refreshing and delicious. The pink color added to the festivities. My coupe glasses are quite old and very small and this recipe made 4 rhubarb cocktails. I garnished these with a twist of lemon peel, which worked well. Since the gin I had was Hendrick’s, which is already infused with cucumber, I didn’t add any other flavorings. The Hendrick’s was fantastic in this.
This rhubarb sour cocktail is lovely and unique. This is a top-notch drink that I would pay top dollar for at an artisanal cocktail bar. The rhubarb syrup’s sweet-tart flavor was a perfect partner for the botanical spirit. I used one small cinnamon stick which was perfect. It lent a nice spiced flavor but didn’t overpower the rhubarb. When it came time to strain the syrup, the thicker consistency made it nearly impossible to strain through a fine-mesh sieve. The rhubarb had broken down so much that it was basically a puree. My leftover strained rhubarb was an applesauce consistency. It’s fabulous. I’m eating it over vanilla ice cream at the moment. I’m also looking forward to having it atop Greek yogurt or slathered on toast with goat cheese. Perhaps I simmered the syrup too long, which created this difficult-to-strain consistency? In the future, I’ll try going for a thinner consistency that would allow for straining.
I adore rhubarb season, as short as it is, so I was really looking forward to making this rhubarb drink. I cut up 1 pound rhubarb and added the sugar, water, a split vanilla bean, and 2 star anise. I allowed the mix to lightly boil for 15 minutes and removed it from the heat to cool and thicken. After straining the syrup, I made the drinks. Since I’m not a big fan of gin, I only used 2 ounces for the 2 drinks. Much to my surprise, I really liked the rhubarb sour. It was sweet, tart, and refreshing. I didn’t even mind the gin. We found this to be just as good when we made these again with vodka. As for the leftover rhubarb, using the star anise gave it a slightly exotic flavor, and it was magnificent with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey for breakfast.
While this rhubarb drink pretty unanimously tasted more like pink lemonade than a rhubarb sour, my testers really liked it. The “sour” comes almost entirely from the lemon juice; the tart taste of rhubarb, in my opinion, gets lost in the syrup. What the syrup does provide, other than a necessary fruity sweetness, is a brilliant pink hue that makes you a little awestruck that it exists in nature and not via a lab. While the gin paired well, I think vodka and white rum would be equally satisfying. I also enjoyed making a soda with carbonated water in place of the alcohol. Do try and add one or two of the additional flavors suggested to the syrup, and perhaps experiment with herbs (mint, basil, even thyme) in either the syrup or finished cocktail.
One of my favorite spring treats is rhubarb. Its lovely pink color, its sweet yet tart flavor, and its versatility. I’ve been roasting rhubarb a lot lately for both sweet and savory dishes and I adore it every which way. Never having used it for a cocktail before, I was excited to try this lovely, bright, pink-hued gin cocktail. Not only was the cocktail refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness and tartness, it involved my favorite spirit, gin. I can see this rhubarb drink working well with vodka, too, if that’s your spirit of choice. Not only did I like the finished product, but it was also cool to have leftover rhubarb syrup, as well as the cooked rhubarb. I’m tempted to reduce the leftover syrup even further and use it as a topping for pancakes instead of maple syrup.
As for the leftover rhubarb mash itself, I plan to use it as a breakfast topping on top of Greek yogurt and on hot cereal like oatmeal or cream of wheat. In terms of the recipe itself, I used a tiny dash of vanilla extract in the rhubarb syrup as it was cooking, as well as lemon peel. I actually used a 16-ounce bag of defrosted frozen rhubarb for the recipe. The recipe called for bringing the reduced syrup to room temperature, which I achieved by placing it in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. This took about 20 minutes. This lovely and unique rhubarb cocktail would be super yummy served at a brunch. I love the idea of popping open a bottle of Prosecco and using some of the rhubarb syrup in a glass of bubbly.
We used a plain London Dry Gin (Greenall’s) for this rhubarb drink, though of course any favorite or special gin would work really well. This recipe let the rhubarb shine through. If possible, choose the brightest red rhubarb for color, but any fresh, crisp stalks will work. Even the greener varieties will yield a pretty pink. I let it simmer for 20 minutes to reduce the syrup a bit more. I made a half recipe of the syrup, which yielded enough for 4 drinks plus a bit left over for drizzling on yogurt or stirring into a gin and tonic. The rhubarb syrup has just enough sweetness, and when you make the drink with fresh lemon and some zest or rind, the hint of spice just comes through. I used just a whisper of nutmeg, grated on a microplane over the fruit as I started to heat it. I know nutmeg can be dominant, so I was restrained—maybe 4 or 5 passes on the grater. It was a nice variation from my usual approach of pairing rhubarb with ginger or vanilla. I’m looking forward to trying juniper berries since that would complement the gin. The cooked strained rhubarb is perfect for breakfast or dessert with yogurt, and nothing goes to waste! This was so easy—5 minutes of prep, simmering, and cooling. The drink itself only took 5 minutes to make.
Originally published April 18, 2018