2 oz. high proof bourbon
3 dashes rhubarb bitters
3 oz. rhubarb smash*
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
To a pint glass add rhubarb smash (including fruit pulp) and bitters. Smash with a muddler or the back of a spoon to further break up the fruit. Add remaining ingredients, plenty of cracked ice, then stir, stir, stir with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice. Serve with a straw and strawberry garnish, if so desired.
*Rhubarb smash: combine 2/3 c. rough chopped rhubarb, 1/3 c. chopped strawberries, and 1 cup sugar in a large non-reactive bowl or quart jar. Rest in the warmest part of your fridge (or in the cellar) for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days, until fruit has released all its juices. Stir to re-incorporate sugar and evenly distribute fruit before using. Smash syrup will keep refrigerated up to 3 weeks.
The story behind the drink….
Growing up, my sibs and I spent summers with our maternal grandparents in rural Indiana, and my Gram had rhubarb plants spotted along her drive like landscaping features from the Little Shop of Horrors. They were massive plants, or maybe just remain that way in my childhood memory. Mostly they were shudderifically scary because they were inevitably full of spiders, and harvesting stalks from them was an arachnophobic kid’s freakin’ nightmare. After much squealing and squawking about the spiders, I’d chop off the toxic leaves, and blast the stems with a garden hose before I brought ‘em inside. They were transformed into preserves, pickles, and my everliving favorite: pie. Gram made the best pie crust (using chilled shortening and oleo) and there’s nothing I liked better than helping her make the criss-cross lattice weave delicately topping a strawberry-rhubarb pie.
One of the first perennials I planted in our Utah garden when we moved here 10 years ago were two rhubarb plants. Only one of ‘em survived the first winter, but it supplies a shit-load of stalks for our family starting in April and going all summer long. Right now I’m in the midst of putting up all things rhubarb, usually with it’s sweet-tart Gemini sister strawberry right along side. I’m brewing up a huge batch of rhubarb-strawberry shrub, and last night skimmed some of the fruit and sugar mash prior to adding the shrub vinegar blend to make a zippy bourbon concoction. It’d be in the ‘smash’ category of cocktails (think along the lines of a julep, but adding fruit to the muddle), which is a half-assed way of saying you smash whatever you like and add booze. Excellent.
For more on how to make seasonal fruit cocktail shrubs, check out my previous post, here.