Given the choice of all the summer fruits – berries and apricots; watermelon and peaches – I can say that rhubarb wouldn’t even be in my top ten. It’s close to the top of the list for the Hubs though so I find myself with big plants in the garden that unfurl from the ground early on and prolifically produce when other fruit is still waking up. Since there’s only so much rhubarb crisp I can make (the Hubs might disagree), I’m always on the lookout for other usages.
I spotted this Rhubarb-Fennel Gin Cocktail in one of those photo spreads in Bon Appétit that always make me wish I was there – pulled up at a table surrounded by restaurant owners or farmers; artists or whatever else the hip crowd employees themselves with these days.
Spring had a hot flash in Idaho early on this season and the patio furniture subsequently came out of hibernation before usual. Mother’s Day dinner was slated to be served in the sunshine, and it’s our tradition to greet guests with a cocktail to kick things off. Known to enjoy a gin and tonic from time to time, this drink seemed like a good fit, right down to the rose-colored hue that I knew my mom would think was pretty.
The drink was so much of a hit I made another batch the following week for another dinner party on the patio. That night as I was pulled up to the table surrounded by friends I thought those people in Bon Appétit ain’t got nothing on me.
- ¼ fennel bulb, untrimmed, coarsely chopped
- 1 375-ml bottle dry vermouth
- 1 large rhubarb stalk, thinly sliced, plus more, shaved, for serving
- ½ cup sugar
- ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¾ cup gin
- Combine fennel and vermouth in a glass container (save vermouth bottle). Cover and chill 2 days. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve back into bottle.
- Bring rhubarb, sugar, and ½ cup water to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until mixture is pink and slightly syrupy, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to a blender and purée until smooth (you should have about ½ cup rhubarb purée).
- Combine 12 oz. fennel-infused vermouth, rhubarb purée, lemon juice, gin, and 2 cups ice in a large pitcher. Stir until cold.
- Pour cocktail into ice-filled old-fashioned glasses and garnish with shaved rhubarb.