Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring in Your Step? Try Spring in Your Glass!

The red stalks of rhubarb that appear at farmers' markets and grocery stores this time of year, along with tender green things like raab, nettles and miner's lettuce, are among the first harbingers of spring, a sure sign that, once again, winter has breathed its last cold breath on the Willamette Valley.

The rhubarb phosphate.

I've been a fan of this sourest of vegetables from childhood, when I'd take a stalk off the kitchen counter where my mom was chopping it for a crisp or pie and, much to her chagrin, chomp down on it, letting the full glory of its acidic sourness fill my mouth. So when I heard that my dear friend Dave Shenaut at Raven & Rose was working up a cocktail featuring my favorite spring ingredient, I asked if he'd be willing to share a recipe or two with the readers of GoodStuffNW.

The Bonnie Wee Lass rhubarb cocktail.

The best part is that these drinks are based on a syrup rather than an infused alcohol, meaning it can be used as an ingredient in a delicious cocktail, of course, but it can also be combined with soda or lemonade for a refreshing beverage to serve at brunch or for sipping on the patio. The syrup will keep for a week or two in the fridge, but it can also be frozen for enjoying on a hot summer day.

And a note on phosphates, those spritzy, fizzy drinks that were the specialty of soda fountains in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At Raven & Rose, Mr. Shenaut is determined to bring back classic beverages like the phosphate, and is looking to beverage writer and itinerant bartender Darcy S. O'Neil's book Fix the Pumps as one of his guides. I'd highly recommend it, as well as O'Neil's blog, Art of Drink, for some fascinating reading.

Rhubarb Syrup
From Dave Shenaut at Raven and Rose
3 lbs. rhubarb stalks, chopped into 1/2" pieces (redder rhubarb will make a more intensely colored syrup)

Place chopped rhubarb in large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook over low heat until rhubarb is tender, 15-20 min. Strain through fine mesh sieve or several layers of cheesecloth, pressing gently to release the liquid. If you want a completely clear syrup it might take more than one filtering. Discard the solids. Measure or weigh the remaining liquid and add an equal amount of sugar. Heat the syrup in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Chill.

Rhubarb Phosphate
From Dave Shenaut at Raven and Rose
3/4 oz. rhubarb syrup
1/2 oz. lemon juice
2-3 drops rose water
10 dashes of phosphate

Half fill a glass with ice, then add the syrup, lemon juice, rose water and phosphate. Fill with seltzer. Garnish with sprig of lemon balm.

* If you don't have phosphate and seltzer, simply substitute soda water. The flavor will be slightly different, but still lovely.

Bonnie Wee Lass
From Dave Shenaut at Raven and Rose
2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. rhubarb syrup
3/4 oz. lemon juice
2 drops rose water
Sprig of lemon balm for garnish

Fill a shaker 2/3 full of ice. Add gin, syrup, lemon juice and rose water. Shake, then strain into cocktail glass. For the garnish, Mr. Shenaut mists the sprig of lemon balm with absinthe and sprinkles it with superfine sugar before setting it gently on the surface of the cocktail, but the sprig by itself would be fine, too.

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