For most of my drinking career, I turned up my nose at whiskey sours — which is weird considering I love both whiskey and sour flavors. I’m guessing my earliest exposure to the drink must have been at a bro bar (or someplace similar; that part of my life is fuzzy), where it was likely made with a mass-produced sour mix. That shit is gross to me for a few reasons, including the fact it’s probably made with lots of preservatives, but especially because cocktails are so much fucking better with fresh-squeezed citrus juice.
As I learned more about cocktails, however, I came to love the whiskey sour. In its simplest and most unadulterated form, it’s made with whiskey, lemon juice, and superfine sugar. Some people (hello!) like to add egg white.
Of course, I like to fuck with recipes, and a few years ago I got my hands on a bottle of rhubarb syrup from Morris Kitchen in Brooklyn. I replaced the sugar in a whiskey sour with the syrup and — HOLY SHIT — it was maybe one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, that stuff seems to be sold out everywhere, all the time. So eventually, I started making my own rhubarb syrup. I’ll be honest: While it’s fucking fantastic, it’s not as good as Morris Kitchen’s. (Just felt like I should let you know that in case you ever come across a bottle. And if you do, buy it. Then please send it to Emily Farris, Kansas City, USA.)
Anyway, you should make this. Rhubarb has a tart flavor, which is perfect for a sweet cocktail syrup. And it’s rhubarb season. That alone is something to celebrate! Just be sure to give yourself some time to make the rhubarb syrup. In fact, it’s probably best to make it a day ahead so it can cool overnight in the fridge.
Yield: 2 cups
5-6 cups rhubarb, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Add the rhubarb, sugar, and water to a medium-size pot over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and add the vinegar, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir, then let the mixture simmer for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour. The longer it simmers the more syrupy it will become.
Strain into a bottle or mason jar and let it cool to room temperature, then seal and refrigerate. This will keep in the fridge for weeks. But you’ll probably use it all before that. (Also, the mushy stuff leftover in the strainer makes a really great rhubarb jam.)
Rhubarb Whiskey Sour
1½ ounces rye whiskey
1½ ounces lemon juice
1 ounce rhubarb syrup
1 egg white from a small egg (or ½ from a large)
Maraschino cherry for garnish
Add the whiskey, lemon juice, rhubarb syrup, and egg white to a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice. Shake really, really well and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry (or don’t, because they’re fucking disgusting, but so pretty!) and enjoy.
NOTE: If you ever do get your hands on a bottle of the Morris Kitchen rhubarb syrup, use ¾ ounce instead of a full ounce in this cocktail.
ANOTHER NOTE: The easiest way to separate an egg white from the yolk is to crack it into your hand, then separate your fingers a little over a bowl, and gently wiggle your fingers. The white will slip through and the yolk will remain in your hand. Voila!
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