Raise your hand if pink drinks make you happy. They make us happy. So does rhubarb. Its arrival at the farmers market is confirmation that spring is in full swing. Once we figured out how to turn it into a pink drink, rhubarb made us even happier. Thoughts of sharing this spring refresher with friends during the increasingly sunny days make the last few April showers seem like fleeting moments.
Although it's technically a vegetable, rhubarb usually makes its way into desserts and baked goods. No wonder since its tart flavor is made palette-pleasing by adding sugar. We opted to take our farmers market haul of rhubarb in a different direction and made two different drinks out of it, a rhubarb mojito and a non-alcoholic soda.
Both recipes begin by cooking the rhubarb with sugar and water to make a syrup. Sometimes sugar alone can be just that, a little syrupy-sweet. We added fresh ginger to our mix to balance out the sugar and add a bit of kick to our mojito (and soda). Use only the stalks of the rhubarb. It's true, the leaves are poisonous. Once our syrup was made, we went forth with traditional mojito ingredients of rum, muddled mint, lime and club soda to mix our drinks. It's a brightly flavored cocktail that doesn't overwhelm with a boozy flavor.
Being in a party mood doesn't have to be about the spirits (rum or otherwise) but it should always be about the spirit and a party attitude. Sometimes a creative flourish in the garnish is all it takes to start the party. Since rhubarb is very tough and fiberous, we used a sharp mandoline to make long ribbon slices for our garnish. If you want to take a nibble, the zing of the fresh rhubarb plays nicely against the sweetness of the drink.
We're looking forward to serving our pink drinks in the garden all spring while May flowers start to bloom.
Rhubarb-Ginger Mojitos & Rhubarb-Ginger Soda
(Makes 4 drinks)
4 cups rhubarb stalks, chopped into 1” pieces
3 pieces of ginger, 1/2-inch thick
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
8 oz rhubarb-ginger syrup
1/4 cup mint leaves, tightly packed
4 oz lime juice
club soda or sparkling water
Variation: For mojitos, add 4 oz white rum before shaking.
Garnish: Use ribbons of rhubarb, slices of lime and sprigs of mint.
Combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and continue to simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and the liquid is slightly thickened. Stir occasionally.
Carefully pour the contents through a mesh strainer, into a bowl. Push down on the solids with a spatula. Allow the syrup to cool in the bowl. Transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. With the ginger removed, reserve the remaining solids from the strainer as a compote to serve over ice cream, granola or oatmeal.
To mix the drinks, add mint to large shaker or pitcher. Muddle the mint with a wooden spoon or drink muddler. Add syrup, lime juice, (rum if using it), ice and 8 ounces club soda. Shake or stir vigorously. Pour through a strainer, into 4 glasses filled with ice. Top off with additional splash of club soda and garnish.
Garnishes that are relevant to the ingredients of your drink help to create the anticipation of what the drink will taste like. We used a sharp mandoline to slice through a stalk of rhubarb and create ribbons to garnish our drinks. If you want to take a nibble, the zing of the fresh rhubarb plays nicely against the sweetness of the drink.