As you stroll through Baltimore's farmers markets this spring, you may notice what looks like dark-pink celery at your favorite farmer's stand. It's rhubarb, a very interesting plant (some classify it as a fruit, others see it as a vegetable) that is tart and delicious. Rhubarb grows in starchy, sturdy stalks ranging from pale to bright pink to green, and you'll see it locally from May through June.
Its potent, pucker-inducing flavor makes rhubarb ripe for culinary experimentation. While often paired with other fruit like apples or berries (as in strawberry-rhubarb pie), it can also be pickled and made into jams and sauces. When using it, be sure to toss the big leaf at the top of the stalk-it's no good.
Our preferred use for rhubarb is in a cocktail. Making a simple syrup with the plant, plus some lemon and honey, results in a beautiful pink liquid. The syrup can be used for many other types of cocktails-think gin, rhubarb, and soda; vodka rhubarb martinis; or even used in a sangria with other fruit flavors. It could also be interesting with herbs like rosemary or thyme. When mixing up the cocktail below, feel free to adjust quantity of simple syrup to suit your taste for sweetness.
2 cups rhubarb, diced
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
peel of 1 lemon
dry sparkling rosé wine, chilled
Rhubarb-Lemon Simple Syrup: Mix diced rhubarb, water, sugar, honey, and lemon peel in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer. Simmer for three minutes and remove from heat. Let the syrup sit for up to an hour and cool. Strain into a container, cover, and chill.
Cocktail: Pour 1 ounce of the rhubarb-lemon syrup and 1/2 ounce elderflower liquor in the bottom of a wine glass or champagne coupe or flute. Top with chilled sparkling rosé. No need to stir: The carbonation from the wine will incorporate the other two ingredients. Garnish with an edible flower or strawberry and enjoy.
You can also make a pitcher of this for parties. Keep the ratios as follows: 2 parts rhubarb-lemon syrup to 1 part elderflower liquor to 4 parts sparkling rosé.