Rhubarbarous gimlets Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Last summer, we offered up a rhubarb syrup flavored with cardamom and lemon meant to enhance drinks of various sorts, both with and without alcohol. Shortly after that, I heard from reader Randy Dorman who made the rhubarb syrup then concocted what he named a “Rhubarbarous Gimlet.”

Randy observed that the rhubarb syrup has a particular affinity for sour cocktails of all kinds. He wrote, “Cocktails in this family (including classics like whisky sours, margaritas and daiquiris) are all essentially riffs on a master formula of two parts base liquor to one part citrus and one part sweet. Your syrup is easily swapped in for the sweet element, with the rhubarb adding a little bitter and the cardamom a little spice to compliment the basic interplay of sweet and sour.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

I love sweet and sour cocktails. My winter favorite is a whiskey sour. Since a gimlet is a gin sour, I was delighted to try this one which was, as Randy said, “Just the thing for a hot July afternoon!”

When I asked if he was a bartender by trade, he reported that cocktail mixing has been a hobby for 10 years now. Lots of people have joined in with mixology, and interesting syrups, artisanal mixers and locally distilled alcohols help add to the fun of experimenting with cocktails.

In fact, a friend Anmiryam Budner and her husband Martin Phillip have also experimented with rhubarb syrup and cocktails. Anmiryam’s syrup recipe is very simple: “We chop up a bunch of rhubarb into chunks. Cover with an equal measure or a bit more of water. Add about 3/4 cup-1 cup sugar for every 4 cups of rhubarb. Boil until the rhubarb is mush. Strain the solids catching the syrup into a bowl. Done.” Her favorite use is for whiskey sours, but they use it in margaritas, too, and sometimes simply with seltzer.

I’ve assiduously removed the blooms from my rhubarb plants so that I can continue harvesting the stalks for a while longer. They are getting skinnier and skinnier which is fine for syrup though not so great for pie or crisp. Meanwhile, other terrific summer fruits are ripening so I won’t miss rhubarb very much and I’ll have a few bottles of the syrup for later summer drinks.

Randy Dorman’s Rhubarbarous Gimlet

2 oz. gin

1 oz. fresh lime juice

1 oz. rhubarb, cardamom, and lemon syrup

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake hard until very cold and strain into a chilled coup or cocktail glass.

Rhubarb, Cardamom and Lemon Syrup

Yields 3 cups

1 pound rhubarb stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces

3 teaspoons decorticated cardamom seeds

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Juice and zest of one lemon

Combine in a heavy saucepan the rhubarb, cardamom and sugar, stirring so that the rhubarb is covered in sugar.

Let stand for an hour or two until the sugar is sticky and you can see a little dissolving begin.

Add the water and bring to a steady simmer, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the rhubarb is cooked apart.

Add the lemon zest and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and strain through a fine sieve.

The syrup will be thin. Taste and adjust for sweetness by adding a little more sugar if desired, returning it to the heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Store refrigerated.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...