Almost magically, on this snowy day, I discovered that my beloved neighbourhood produce store had the first rhubarb of the season in stock. Fresh, crisp, perfectly blushed rhubarb!
But what to do with it? Having already made cookies this weekend, I certainly didn't need a whole rhubarb cake, tart, or pie sitting around my apartment. But I needed to do something with it! A cocktail was the perfect opportunity to get a small-batch taste.
Many rhubarb cocktails I've seen tend to play up the sharp, vegetal nature of rhubarb with herbs, gin, and other similar tastes (like this Bon Appetit recipe that I will definitely be trying before the season is out). I wanted to go the opposite direction: to soften the sharpness of rhubarb with warmer flavours: darker sugar, vanilla, and bourbon. The result is a delicious, rounded cocktail, suitable for closing your eyes and pretending that there is no snow on the ground.
Rhubarb Bourbon Cocktail
1 medium stalk of rhubarb, chopped into 1" segments (about 1 cup)
1 tbsp turbinado or brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch ground cardamom*
1 oz bourbon
Combine rhubarb segments, sugar, and water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring regularly, until the rhubarb has softened into a puree, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, then strain through a seive, reserving liquid (you should have about 2/3 cup.) Add rhubarb liquid, vanilla, cardamom, and bourbon to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until the cocktail shaker is frosty on the outside, and strain into two glasses.
*Despite my scandinavian heritage, I find cardamom to be an easily overpowering flavour. Feel free to add slightly more of the ground spice, to taste, but don't blame me if your cocktail tastes like expensive Swedish soap.