The Rhubarb-ojito: A Big Hit at June Happy Hour

According to the Grow NYC Greenmarket calendar, rhubarb and strawberries are expected to be in-season and available throughout June and July. This, my friends, is very exciting.

I'll admit, in the past I've shied away from rhubarb... the strange vegetable with tart stalks that seemed to require copious amounts of sugar to make appetizing.

But this year, the sudden profusion of lovely red and green stalks pushed my cocktail hot-button, and I became obsessed with featuring rhubarb in a seasonal drink for June happy hour.

And, I also felt incredibly compelled to make preserves. Because why stop with cocktails? And isn't it just lovely to pair a nice jam with brie?

So, it's been a busy few weeks in the UG kitchen, but happily, the effort was worth the gastronomic reward.

I started my quest by making a rhubarb-strawberry syrup. My method was a little loose... My untested approach is below, but there are many recipes online. Just know that I cut the standard amount of sugar in half, from 1:1 water/sugar to 2:1 water/sugar.

I think it would be a gastronomic tragedy to obliterate the lovely tartness of the rhubarb with too much sugar.

After much research and testing, I landed on creating a rhubarb-ojito, using less syrup/sugar than most recipes and incorporating a wonderful fresh peppermint found at the Greenmarket.

Loosey-Goosey Strawberry-Rhubarb Simple Syrup

  • Cut 3-4 stalks of rhubarb into half-inch pieces
  • Slice 1 to 1 1/2 cups of strawberries into bite-size pieces 
  • Simmer just covered with water in a medium saucepan for 15 minutes
  • Strained the mix through a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth, pressing the fruit 
  • Measure the liquid 
  • Add half the amount of sugar and stir until dissolved
  • Refrigerate (most recipes suggest using within 1-2 weeks)
Like I said, this was loosey-goosey. For a tested recipe, search online. But, I suggest sticking with the 2:1 water/syrup ration.

1.5 oz white rum
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz strawberry-rhubarb syrup
1.5 oz club soda
4-6 medium fresh peppermint leaves plus one for garnish
1 strawberry

  • Gently muddle the mint leaves with lime juice and syrup. 
  • Add rum and ice, shake until frosty. 
  • Strain into a glass (8-10 oz) 
  • Add seltzer and a few ice cubes
  • Take a mint leaf and smack it between your palms, then drop it on top
  • Add a half-sliced strawberry to the rim
  • (Consider making doubles if you have a booze-alicious crowd)
Note: I started with Dale DeGroff's mojito recipe from The Essential Cocktail and made modifications. He indicates that tearing the mint, muddling too much and shaking can make a mojito overly herbal and bitter. To avoid this, he suggests bruising the mint in a highball glass and stirring the cocktail. I didn't have this problem with the fresh peppermint, but I did run into trouble with a tougher, less fresh spearmint when I was experimenting. 

As for the jam, I turned to canning expert Cathy Barrow, who writes the great blog Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen. In an article last Spring, titled, Not So Scary: Easy Steps to Canning, she shared a recipe for strawberry-rhubarb confiture (aka jam). The article includes a step-by-step slideshow with beautiful photos and the recipe. More recently, Ms. Barrow wrote Decoding Strawberry Jam, an article with a recipe for strawberry jam that uses kiwi for natural pectin.

I made both, and served the confiture with Woolwich Dairy's triple-creme goat brie.

The rhubarb-ojitos, the confiture and the goat brie all received rave reviews during the UG June Happy Hour. And now, I wish I still had rum in the house!