Rhubarb Shrub Cocktail with Gin and Basil
You can make this with any fruit you have lying around, but the stronger the fruit’s flavor the better. Rhubarb gets sweet but keeps a sour edge that holds up nicely to alcohol.
I first learned about shrubs when I was living in Baltimore and had lots of time for kitchen experiments. We made some lovely fruit combos (apricots and basil; strawberries and balsamic), but went a little overboard with the vinegar. You want your shrub to have a hint of vinegar but not to overwhelm you. You want the vinegar, the alcohol, and the fruit to balance each other equally in the end result. Rhubarb, I’ve found, is strong enough to stand up to the alcohol but remain flavorful. This is the sweet spot!
Go to the farmers market in the early summer and buy all the rhubarb you can (it’s cheap!), make a big batch of shrub (this is where you quadruple this recipe!) to last you all summer.
Adjustments: make this with whatever fruit you have on hand (blueberries, plums, apricots, strawberries); add basil or thyme (be careful not to overdo the thyme) with the fruit before you boil, and use the herb as a garnish
Makes about 8 cocktails
1/2 lb rhubarb (about 4 small stalks/250g)
3/4 cup/150 grams sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces gin
2 leaves basil, torn, plus more for garnish
3 ounces sparkling water (like Topo Chico -- something very bubbly!)
Make the shrub: Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer until rhubarb is broken down and stringy, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain over a fine-mesh sieve. Let cool to room temperature and chill.
Prepare the drink: Combine gin, basil, and 1 oz shrub in a cocktail shaker (or any jar -- I use a mason jar because it's what I have). Add ice and shake. Strain into a glass and top off with sparkling water. Garnish with basil and serve.