Rhubarb liqueur is the reason this blog exists. A couple of weeks ago, I trotted off to the farmer’s market at Grand Army Plaza with the express purpose of picking up my first rhubarb of the season to make booze and the strawberry-rhubarb slop that goes on ice cream and tastes like early summer perfection. There was a nice lady there buying rhubarb herself, and she and I struck up a conversation about the making of liqueurs. She made some with rhubarb last year. She was psyched. She encouraged me to make and have a cupboard full of bitters (which I hope to get going in the next couple of months — adorable market lady, if you ever read this, you’re super influential). She asked if I had a blog. I made one happen in a rather abstract, removed response. That’s how it went down.
After an excellent day of veggie buying, car borrowing, homebrew shopping, and Long-Island-diner-dining, I got going on the rhubarb goodness. We made the gooey ice cream topping (many thanks to the dinner guest who left strawberries in my fridge that week), and I chopped a whole bunch more rhubarb and plopped it into my trusty gallon jar.
That’s a little over a quart of rhubarb. I added lemon zest for good measure, and some sugar, too. In general, I am in favor of leaving the sugar out and adding simple syrup once your infusables have infused. That way, you have more control and can taste for sweetness and tweak to your liking. If you add the sugar at the start, you run the risk of winding up with something sweeter than you’d like. That said, rhubarb is notoriously tart, so I didn’t think there was much risk of oversweetening, and I really wanted to shake it around with a little sugar and watch the juices start to seep out, so that is just what I did. Simple pleasures.
I added 1.75 litres of vodka, gave it a good swirl to make sure all juices and sugar crystals were submerged, and tucked it away in a dark and cozy spot.
By the next day, the rhubarb had all floated to the top of the jar, and the vodka had turned a very pale and pretty shade of pink. I let it sit for just shy of two weeks, pinkening and flavoring up, me giving it a shake whenever I thought of it (probably averaged out to every other day). And here it is all infused. I decided it was done when most of the color had leached out of the rhubarb and into the vodka, as it seemed unlikely that the rhubarb was going to give up any more flavor.
Because there was some sediment in the bottle (lemon zest and, presumably, fibers that had come out of the rhubarb), I strained it through a coffee filter. I added some simple syrup and poured it into a glass jug. Shawn proclaimed it spring in a bottle.It was coming up on bedtime when all of the vodka had finally dripped through the filter, so we didn’t do much with it that night. I made one simple drink for Shawn and me to share: Rhubarb liqueur with a squeeze of lemon, topped up with plain old seltzer. It tasted bright and only slightly sweet and most refreshing. It would be excellent with some muddled strawberries (of course) and a little bit of fresh mint or maybe even basil. Given my natural affinities, I thought it would also be great with a little splash of gin. Maybe I will skip the vodka middle man and make rhubarb gin next time around…Either way, cocktail possibilities abound, and I highly recommend this easy, pleasing way of bottling spring.