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