It’s rhubarb season! So get thee to a market and buy some of these gorgeous magenta stalks. Rhubarb is a great cocktail ingredient in general (as you can see if you try this recipe or any of these recipes). But so far my favorite way to cocktail it up with rhubarb is rhubarb bitters, which pair well with every spirit and complement sweet, sour, and bitter flavors alike.
My favorite way to use these bitters is to make a Gin & Tonic, squeeze in a little grapefruit and then top with the bitters. But really you can use them in place of grapefruit bitters or to tie together a lighter cocktail. Cinchona bark and angelica root are often available at herb shops or Latin markets. You can also buy them online.
Remember: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should not be used for any recipes. Only the stalks are edible.
Cherry bitters isn’t exactly on every store shelf, but it’s surprisingly useful. I just ran out of the batch I made last year, and I’m about to make another! You can use homemade cherry bitters instead of Angostura in your Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Champagne Cocktail to give your cocktail a hint of fruit while still doing what bitters does best.
I used Bing cherries, because that’s what is usually around. But go with whatever kind of cherry (or mix thereof) that you’re into. I live in the Bay Area, so finding gentian root was as easy as hopping over to some herbal shop in Berkeley. But you can also order them from Lhasa Karnak. California is also an easy place to find 151-proof spirits, so if that’s not around your neck of the woods, then go for the highest proof vodka you can get.
Store-bought tomatoes can’t compete with the ones grown in a home garden. My two tomato plants are producing like mad. But I’m not complaining! Sweet, juicy tomatoes can go in everything, even cocktails. For something lighter than a Bloody Mary, I like the Tomato Martini. Tomato is right at home with the garden flavors and scents of gin! Add a little vermouth and Lillet, and you’re ready for garden Happy Hour!
2 ounces tomato-infused gin*
1/2 ounce extra dry vermouth
1 splash Lillet Blanc
Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir, then strain into chilled cocktail glass. Optional: Garnish with cherry tomatoes speared on a toothpick
1 part London dry gin
1 part ripe tomato
Chop tomato into chunks, place in sealable glass jar, and then pour gin on top. Seal and shake. Let steep at room temperature away from direct sunlight for one day. Taste to see if desired flavor is achieved. If not, let steep for an additional day. (One large tomato is about 1 cup chopped. So using 1 cup of gin and 1 cup tomato makes enough infused gin for four drinks.)
Photo by Jackson Stakeman