I used to hate gin and tonics. "Bitter, bitter pine trees" I called it (incidentally, somebody please make that their band name). But while plain dry gin and regular tonic are still not my thing, I've become a much bigger fan of gin than I originally thought. In particular, flavored gins, which are so easy to make at home!
Rhubarb is a favorite in Northern Europe and Scandinavia is no exception. But ultimately rhubarb reminds me of growing up in North Dakota! Also known as "pie plant," the only safe part of the rhubarb plant for humans to eat is the stalk. It gets its sourness from oxalic acid, which is concentrated in the leaves, making them inedible and toxic. But its tartness is part of its charm, as rhubarb is often one of the earliest "fruits" available after winter.
Although rhubarb is done for the season in much of the United States by July, I was able to rescue some stalks from my mother-in-law's house before they got too dry. June was a busy month for me, so I didn't have much time to turn them into desserts. Gin it was!
Rhubarb Gin & Tonic
This recipe is pretty straightforward, and makes the most delicious, rhubarb-y gin!
10-16 rhubarb stalks
sugar to coat
Cut the rhubarb lengthwise into long strips, then cut crosswise into small pieces. Essentially, you want it minced. Add it to a quart jar (about 3 cups) and add sugar to coat, a 1/4 to a half cup. Seal and shake vigorously and let rest at room temperature, shaking occasionally, until the rhubarb gives up its juice. After 12-24 hours, cover with dry gin (I used the tail end of a bottle of Beefeater). Shake well and let rest at room temperature, shaking occasionally, for a day or two before using. The pinker your rhubarb, the pinker the gin. Eventually, the minced rhubarb will lose its color, but it will still taste delicious.
To make the beautiful pink gin into a tonic, pour a finger or two over ice, fill with tonic water, and stir to chill and combine. You don't have to use particularly high-quality gin - the sugar smooths out a lot of the alcoholic burn. But try to use a higher quality tonic than the garden variety. I like Fever Tree. Use the plain tonic for full rhubarb flavor. But if you're feeling extra fancy and adventurous, try it with their Elderflower tonic! The flavor of the rhubarb and the elderflower merge to give almost a grapefruit-y taste. I like both ways!
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Infusing alcohol is one of my favorite ways to "preserve" fruit, and gin is one of the most forgiving. You can make blackberry gin, raspberry gin, and even celery gin! Just add fruit, a little sugar if you want, and let it rest until the gin takes on the color and flavor of whatever you're putting in it.
This is the last post in my Scandinavian Midsummer Porch Party series. I hope you enjoyed it! Follow the link to see the whole menu.
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.
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