The Friday Tipple: Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Hola, Boozers. Here in the old U.S. of A, we’ll take any excuse to have a margarita, which explains why Cinco de Mayo is more popular here than in its country of origin, and why most of the people partaking in the celebrations have likely never even traveled south of the border (unless you count a visit to Pedro’s highway oasis) or can speak nary a soupçon of Spanish. Whatever. It’s a margarita. Bring it on.

The tart freshness of spring fruits lend themselves to margaritas that far surpass the standard variety made with overly sweet mixes. We went a little fancy this week by creating a base from ruby red grapefruit and rhubarb, but the result is well worth the small amount of effort it takes to make a more complex margarita. This is a drink not meant to be insulted with a bowl of Doritos and Cheez Whiz on the side, but would stand up perfectly to a fresh shrimp ceviche or an authentic pozole verde. Go ahead, put on that sombrero and live a little. Salud!

Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Rhubarb is a fruit, or a vegetable, depending upon who you ask, with a texture and flavor often likened to tart celery. Our Ruby Rhubarb syrup is layered with flavors that simply cried out for a layering of liquors; sticking with tradition, we used a silver tequila and a splash of triple sec, but then floated a little white whiskey over the top, our American nod to a fiery aguardiente.

for the Ruby Rhubarb syrup:

1 cup  rhubarb stems, roughly chopped

1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice with pulp, freshly squeezed

1 cup water

1 cup turbinado sugar

4 or 5 pineapple sage leaves (you can substitute with basil leaves)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for one hour, allowing the rhubarb to soften and break down. When the liquid has thickened slightly, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain thoroughly through a fine-mesh sieve; can now be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Yield: about 1 cup.

to make the ‘Rita:

1 lime

2 – 3 tablespoons Ruby Rhubarb syrup (adjust to your taste)

2 ounces silver tequila

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce clear whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirits)

Fresh rhubarb, cut into a 4-inch stick for garnish (optional)

Cut the lime in half and squeeze all the juice into a cocktail shaker. Add the Ruby Rhubarb syrup, the tequila, the triple sec, and several ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with coarse salt. Top with the clear whiskey, garnish with fresh rhubarb, and drink up.

The Friday Tipple: Pear Champagne Cocktail

TGIF, Boozers. We’ve had a long week and so we were already in a celebratory mood before we spotted this little message on Twitter: “Pearousia pear brandy is HERE!”. We may have even heard a choir of angels sing. Did we mention it’s been a long week?

‘Nuff said, Boozers, we need no more encouragement than that to crack open a bottle of bubbly. Our friends at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company make a luscious pear brandy known as Pearousia, and if you live in the DC area, we suggest that you run, not walk, to snag one of the 402 bottles now available. We already have a bottle, and in fact had planned a different Pearousia cocktail coming to you in a couple of weeks, but we pulled this together today because we couldn’t wait another minute.

If you can’t get Pearousia, don’t despair. As you know, we encourage you to buy local, and our loyal Boozers are spread far and wide; pear brandy pops up in small distilleries across North America, so we suggest that you check in your local area. Also known as an eau-de-vie, pear brandies are made at Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon, Harvest Spirits in New York, and Bartlett Winery in Maine. However, most liquor stores will carry a bottle of pear brandy, perhaps just slightly dusty, somewhere on their shelves. Grab it.

Pear Champagne Cocktail

We like to use a little turbinado sugar with this, borrowing from an Italian tradition of dropping a sugar cube into a glass of champagne, symbolizing the sweetness of life. Steal a few packets of Sugar-in-the-Raw the next time you’re buying a pricey cup of coffee and keep them at home for this tipple.

Chilled champagne

Pear Brandy

Fresh pear, chopped (remove the skin first, if you like, but we don’t)

Turbinado (raw) sugar

Drop a few pieces of pear into the bottom of a champagne flute and sprinkle some sugar over the top. Let sit for a few minutes while the sugar softens, then pour 1 ounce of pear brandy over the pear. Allow to macerate for 15 minutes, then top with chilled champagne. Salut!

Seriously wicked pickled ginger syrup

So, we’re a little obsessed with infused simple syrups right now in the Good Booze kitchen. We acknowledge that an intervention may need to be staged at some point, but until then, just look the other way. A little sugar and water never hurt anybody.

You can walk into pretty much any restaurant these days and find a list of fancy cocktails of which at least one will, inevitably, feature a ginger simple syrup. So, we set out to make a standard ginger syrup until suddenly inspired by the giant bowl of fruit and vinegar currently marinating on the kitchen counter (keep an eye out for that recipe soon), which sent us running to the Asian foods section of the local grocery store in search of a jar of pickled sushi ginger.

The resulting syrup is luscious and peppery, with a distinct tang of vinegar. It will take a star turn in The Friday Tipple this week, but, more importantly, it would be amazing drizzled over creamy vanilla ice cream, as a spicy counterpoint to a rich flourless chocolate torte, or added to club soda for a homemade pickled ginger beer. And we’re pretty sure a spoonful of it might just cure the common cold.

Wicked Pickled Ginger Syrup

We used a raw sugar/cane sugar combination with this recipe, to help deepen the flavor and color. For the pickled sushi ginger, we used a piquant organic variety by The Ginger People, not the dyed-pink stuff that you usually see piled up next to the wasabi on your sushi plate. And don’t throw out the ginger pieces after you’ve strained the syrup — it’s candied pickled ginger gold! We put ours in the fridge and think they make a delicious addition to Greek yogurt and ice cream.

1 cup raw turbinado sugar

1 cup cane sugar

2 cups water

1 jar (6.7 ounces) pickled sushi ginger in vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a rolling simmer, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and allow to reduce for about 30 minutes, until you get a slightly thickened syrup. Cool in saucepan, then strain into a jar or squeeze bottle. Kept refrigerated, it should last at least three months.

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