Day Twenty-Five, in which we fulfill a long-held dream.

Today’s challenge: To develop a signature cocktail.

I’ve been trying to develop a signature cocktail for years now, or rather, I’ve been saying that I want to develop one without ever trying, unless you count the rhubarb margarita I concocted a couple of months ago, which tasted so horrible that I threw the whole thing out.

Old-school cocktails are so cool, aren’t they? The specific glasses they’re made in, the muddle this and swirl that, the various specific garnishes. Even the name “simple syrup” is elegant.

Because the still-fresh memory of that hideous rhubarb margarita was so galling, I decided, out of spite and/or stubbornness and/or stupidity, to create a signature cocktail with a rhubarb theme.

As with most of these challenges, I turned to my trusty friend Mr. Google, and after spending an hour or so perusing the many great ideas involving rhubarb and alcohol, I made a list and headed out to do some shopping. My list:

Bitters (another great name)

Gin (which I know virtually nothing about)

Tonic (can’t remember if I’ve ever actually bought it before)

Some kind of garnish (to be decided on last-minute in a zany moment of inspiration, and which ended up being a lime, which is neither zany nor inspired, but I like limes)

Hennepin-Lake Liquors, my neighborhood liquor store, which is cash-only and a little sketchy but cheap, had lots of gin. I wanted Boodles, because of the name alone, but it was too spendy. Basing my decision on name recognition within a mid-range price alone, I got Gordon’s.

There was a small but interesting selection of Bitters (again, what a great name!) and I picked the one that was made in New Orleans because I love New Orleans.

Tonic: Why is a big bottle $1.49 and a six-pack of tiny bottles $5.49? This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Back home. Straight to the rhubarb patch I went, armed with a big knife. This rhubarb patch began life as a clump that my mother dug up for me in upstate New York and which I carried onto an airplane, dirt and all, in a duffel a couple of years ago.

Like all rhubarb everywhere, it thrives no matter what I do or don’t do to it, here at the side of my house between some lilies that I planted from a bunch that someone had set out on the curb with a FREE sign and a rhododendron that was here when I moved in.

Chop chop chop, off with their heads!

Back into the kitchen. Chop chop chop some more, on the big wooden cutting board that began life as a twenty-five cent hunk of wood at someone’s garage sale and which I decided to call a cutting board.

Into a big pot with you, rhubarb, along with lots and lots of sugar.

After a long time I soaked the rhubarb, sugar and all, in some boiling-hot water, whereupon I strained it into a big bowl and tasted it. YUM. I boiled some of it with more sugar for a few minutes and tasted that. ALSO YUM.

The rhubarb was now transformed into a kind of rhubarb simple syrup, although that name lacks pizzazz.

Then I got out various accoutrements and lined them up on the counter so as to feel like a bartender, which is a secret dream job of mine despite the fact that I need a lot of alone time, barely drink, and until just now didn’t know the first thing about making a drink.

What I love about bartending is the way bartenders move behind the bar, tossing all those bottles around, dipping and scooping and filling clinking glasses with various combinations of ice and alcohol and talking and smiling the whole time. Beautiful to watch.

I used a little, non-regulation glass because I figured, given the haunting specter of the undrinkable rhubarb margarita, that it would take me a long time to create the signature cocktail.

But I figured wrong! One try, people, and it was so tasty that I quit while I was ahead.

Now I need to have a party.


  1. Laura · August 3, 2012

    That looks so tasty. We have recently started adding rhubarb bitters to almost everything (including soda water). I hadn’t thought of a rhubarb simple syrup. I like it.


  2. anno · August 3, 2012

    That looks so refreshing — cheers!


  3. Karen · August 3, 2012

    That looks quite lovely. Love the accoutrements, too!


  4. Nicole · August 4, 2012

    Listen, you didn’t say how much of each thing you put in! How is a girl supposed to recreate it? Also, what about a name for this cocktail? Something like the Detective McGhee. Or the Knuckleduster. Or the Overbite Underbite. Let’s really work on this.


  5. alison · August 4, 2012

    Thanks, all.

    Anno and Laura, I just read some of your blogs. They’re great! Thank you. I shall return.

    Nicole, fussy, fussy, aren’t you? Try 1 oz. of gin, 1 oz. of the syrup, and tonic to taste. Also, in retrospect, it might be a little sweet. I might go for club soda the next time I make it. As for your name suggestions, they’re all So Much Better than mine. (I kind of like the Overbite Underbite, but why do I?)


  6. anno · August 4, 2012

    Hmmm… maybe The McGheever?
    No. Definitely not.
    The Overbite Underbite it must be.

    Thanks for stopping by, but I’m not really blogging any more. Just another composition teacher returning to the CC classroom this fall, looking for materials that might inspire my what-I’ve-been-told-are reluctant writers. The Lisel Mueller poem first caught my attention, but the wonderful narrative of Laura Kasischke’s poem has even stronger possibilities, especially for this group.

    So. I came for the poems, but I’m loving this 30-day challenge of yours. If you’re wondering what to do with your leftover gin, this lemon-thyme gin sparkler from the author of 101 Cookbooks is worth trying:


  7. alison · August 4, 2012

    Anno, thanks for Heidi’s sparkler recipe – I like her blog a lot but I don’t remember reading this one.

    As for poems, do you know the Favorite Poem project? I love the whole idea behind it, and watching the videos and hearing/seeing people recite their favorite poems (and give the stories behind why they love them) is always interesting and sometimes heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s free, too. My students have really liked this.

    There’s a text I like a lot too: Very approachable, with good examples and lots of great exercises.

    For what it’s worth!


  8. Nicole · August 5, 2012

    I’m fond of the Overbite Underbite, too, but also you could name it Elmore’s Goggles. Or the Stone Cold Smuggler’s Cove. Or the Arms Akimbo. Really, anything that seven seconds’ thought can come up with. And I have a *lot* of sets of seven seconds available, if they are needed.


  9. nicole · August 17, 2012

    Oh, I can vouch for the gin sparklers from 101 Cookbooks as being awesome. As is rosemary simple syrup in many drinks.

    I love making simple syrups, I have bitters and I want to get some gin. So, I am soon going to be making this signature cocktail of yours! Sounds delightful 🙂


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