Sunday, May 09, 2010
Am I getting a little tiresome with the rhubarb? First I infuse it into liqueur, then bake it into a custard tart. Forgive me. Ye rosebuds, they must be gathered. At least until the strawberries ripen.
But this rhubarb syrup needs no apology. And you need something to sip while you're waiting for the rhubarb liqueur to age, right? If you are a cocktail hound, like myself, you'll find this syrup perfect for slipping into all sorts of cleverly-named drinks. Rhubarb collinses, rhubarbaritas, rhubarb mojitos, etc. And if you're a mocktail drinker, the syrup can be combined with fizzy water and a squirt of lime for a not-to-sweet refresher with a nicely layered flavor.
If you have the rosy-hued rhubarb (versus its greenish cousin), this syrup creates drinks that are unabashedly pink, of the sort that might as well be sporting a tiny paper parasol. If you're aiming for a manly air, the sweetly blushing appearance won't help. But the flavor is all grown up. If you like, you can fancy it up further by steeping it with a few coins of fresh ginger, a slice of dried star anise, or a splash of rosewater. But purist that I am, I like it straight up best of all. I also make this much lighter than a traditional simple syrup: instead of the 2:1 sugar:water ratio of a standard thick syrup, I make it a less than 1:1. Rhubarb's taste is much more subtle than a brassy lemon or pungent berry puree, and the lighter syrup allows you to pour in more of the rhubarb flavor without being overwhelmed by sweetness.
yields ~2 1/2 cups
1 lb rhubarb, washed and cut in 1/4" slices
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups water
optional: a few slices fresh ginger, a slice of star anise, a splash of rosewater or orange flower water
Toss the rhubarb, sugar and water in a pot, stir, and bring to a boil. If you're using any optional herbs or spices, add them now. Lower the heat until it's just enough to maintain a simmer. Cook until the rhubarb breaks down entirely, ~20 minutes. Pour through a strainer, giving the rhubarb goo a stir to allow all the syrup to drip through. Stir in the orange flower water or rosewater, if desired. Cool, and add to the beverage of your choosing.