Rhubarb Renaissance

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For a tarted up cocktail, try this underappreciated veggie

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Who would have guessed this humble stalk would have so much zest? I know what you’re thinking … When I was a kid, rhubarb was something that you could only find at a roadside diner or county fair and almost exclusively baked in a pie with strawberries. Believe me, rhubarb is not just for baking anymore. We’re reinventing rhubarb.

Long used in Chinese medicine, the earliest records of rhubarb date back to 2700 BC. Its name, etymologically speaking, may come from “Rha,” the ancient name of the River Volga upon which it grew wild; and “barbarian,” the name often associated with the Mongols, or “outsiders,” who cultivated the plant and lived along the aforementioned river.

Rhubarb is a great source of vitamins C and K, calcium and dietary fiber. In homeopathy, the plant’s cooling properties make it an ideal agent for lowering cholesterol, treating fevers, hot flashes and even heartburn. As for conventional medicine, continuous studies are being conducted to confirm its efficacy in combating cancer cells and ceasing metastasis.

It makes perfect sense to pair rhubarb with a sweet partner; the stalk is quite tart and could be compared to eating an earthy lemon. When used in cocktails, the resulting taste creates a citruslike vitality that pairs well with many spirits. Matched by few other vegetables, rhubarb lends a zing to bourbon, an edge to vodka, a balance to gin and a smoothness to tequila. Dare to be different with your cocktails—give rhubarb a try.

hh2Rue Bourbon
(Available at Loa through March)

2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
3 half-inch stalks of rhubarb
½ oz. Grand Marnier
½ oz. simple syrup
4 mint leaves

Add rhubarb to a mixing glass and muddle until juices release. Add remaining ingredients, cubed ice and shake well. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice.

Rhubarbarella

1¼ oz. Belvedere Vodka
¾ oz. Glenmorangie Scotch
½ oz. Grand Marnier
½ oz. Simple rhubarb syrup

Add all ingredients and ice to a mixing tin. Shake well and strain into a chilled V-shaped cocktail glass with lemon-zested, sugared rim. Garnish with a sliver of rhubarb on the zested sugar rim.

Simple Rhubarb Syrup
1½ cups cut rhubarb (or one package pre-cut, frozen)
½ cup sugar
½ cup white wine or water

Add all ingredients to a small pot and simmer over low heat for 15 to 30 minutes. Press through a food mill, ricer or through a sieve to remove excess fibers. Rhubarb syrup is also a great accompaniment to crepes. Syrup will last two weeks in fridge or can be frozen in an ice cube tray for six months for future uses.

For the sugared zest recipe or to learn how to crush ice, please see Star Hodgson’s December and February Happy Hour articles at www.livingneworleans.com/?cat=35.