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Make Rhubarb-Infused Vodka

Last year I infused some vodka with rhubarb and it turned out so good that it was gone too quickly. In fact, I believe this was the fastest we went through an infusion ever. I've done everything from chili peppers and pineapple to coffee and vanilla, but the rhubarb is my favorite. This year, I decided to try it again and I let it go a little longer to see how the flavor intensified. It turns out that the flavor of rhubarb develops very quickly and after only one day you can see a its gorgeous pink tint and smell the effects. This time I let it sit over the long holiday weekend, and I think I have another winner!

Infusing vodka is about the easiest mixology adventure you can take, and a great way to get started thinking about the flavors you can achieve in a cocktail. To do rhubarb, simply slice the stalks lengthwise so they can easily fit into a bottle. Then, chop the strips into pieces just a couple inches long. It doesn't take much. Perhaps just two stalks cut in this manner is plenty to flavor a bottle of vodka. Drop the pieces into a clean bottle and fill it up with a decent vodka. There's no need to break the bank on this, but don't use the cheapest stuff either.

After a few days, it's ready to stop the process. Pour the contents through a fine mesh sieve or a coffee filter to get it nice and clean. You can put it right back in the bottle, or transfer it to something decorative. It's up to you, but I am guessing it won't much matter because it's not going to last very long!

Rhubarb vodka is pretty good all by itself, but you can make a lot of great cocktails too. Start with any recipe that uses vodka for a nice rhubarb twist. Or, start simple. You could try combining a couple ounces with a dash of lime juice, shake it with ice and strain into a cocktail glass—simple, but effective. Consider what you like to eat that has rhubarb to get some ideas. How about this: muddle a few strawberries with a pinch of cinnamon, a teaspoon or two of sugar (or simple syrup) and then add a couple ounces or more of the rhubarb vodka. Again, shake with ice, strain and serve up. It's like a strawberry rhubarb dessert in a glass!

Tonight I took my rhubarb vodka and made a Cherry Rhubarb Sour. It was fantastic:

Cherry Rhubarb Sour
2 ounces rhubarb-infused vodka
.75 ounce lemon juice
.5 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
.25 ounce simple syrup (1:1)
.5 ounce egg white

Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake very hard without ice. Open the shaker, add 5 large ice cubes, reseal and shake until your arm is tired. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. The best foam will appear at the end of the pour, so make sure you wait for that. Garnish with several drops of Angostura Bitters (or cherry bitter if you have some) on the top of the foam.

EDIT: For an alternative cocktail that is also excellent, give the Strawberry Barb a try. It's our go-to drink now whenever we have rhubarb vodka!

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13 comments to Make Rhubarb-Infused Vodka

  • Sam

    I gave your infusion a try, but after a few days, despite the very pretty color, the flavor was still pretty mellow and the chunks of rhubarb had been more or less drained of their essence. I think this may have been due to the fact that my rhubarb wasn't as ripe as it should have been. So I drained out the pieces and cut my losses. Given how much I enjoy rhubarb and raspberries, I threw a pint of raspberries in to the mix and I'll give em a week or so to macerate. Hopefully that'll lead to something more interesting.

  • Wow. Sorry to hear that. I wonder, as you do, if perhaps your rhubarb was just past its prime. I have always been surprised by the speed and intensity of the infusion I get from rhubarb, but in St. Paul the rhubarb season has been over for several weeks. I wanted to post this sooner but I was out of town and ended up finding some that was almost too far gone when I got back. I was lucky to get what I could out of it.

    I think your raspberry idea is a good way to salvage the booze, but when it comes right down to it, there is plenty you can do with pink vodka! You might also try tasting it with a bit of simple syrup. A little sugar is going to bring out more of the flavor and you might be perfectly happy with it in a cocktail.

  • Luke Kane

    The best part about infusing rhubarb IMO is using the fruit as dessert topping. Vodka infused rhubarb over plain vanilla ice cream is wonderful.

  • Luke, you are talking about using the pieces of fruit as they come out of the vodka, yes? I hadn't thought of that. It's a great suggestion and sure beats dropping them into the compost pile. Now, would you serve that next to a shot of the infused vodka?

  • I've heard a few reports of here and elsewhere of readers having mixed results from their rhubarb infusion. As always, it's appropriate to taste it as you go. Your results may vary, depending on the quality of your rhubarb. Also worth mentioning is that you aren't making a liqueur. In other words, a flavored vodka is going to carry a hint, but it's not going to run away with rhubarb taste. Finally, when you drink it, the addition of lime and a touch of simple syrup really brings out the flavor!

  • Pam

    I am about to try making rhubarb infused vodka. Is a week too long to leave the rhubarb in the vodka? I had a great rhubarb infused vodka martini at a NYC restaurant and it contains the actual pieces of rhubarb. Is there any reason the rhubarb can't be left in there permanently?

  • Pam,
    It's a good question. I typically strain mine after a few days since the rhubarb loses its color and starts to look like old (rotting) celery. That's not nearly as appetizing as a gorgeous pink bottle. Besides, straining it out means you can get a beautifully clear result without having to deal with any small specks of stuff floating in your drink. Now, if you aren't so worried about aesthetics it might not really matter. One thing you can't avoid with infusions (and a reason why some products undergo distillation) is that in addition to extracting the good flavors, you also get some of the bitterness. It's possible that with extended infusion time the bitter will take on more of the flavor than you like. I just don't know. From my perspective, it's not really getting BETTER by leaving the chunks in there, but it might not hurt anything at all. Maybe you could try it that way and post another comment later with your results. I am sure others would like to know too!

  • ann

    I was too excited to wait four days for my rhubarb vodka. Last night (after two days), I dipped in and ladled out two ounces to make a cherry rhubarb sour. Fantastic! Especially amazing, was the smell that continued to come off the cherry-bark vanilla bitters floating on top the egg-white froth. Can't wait to try the Strawberry Barb tomorrow with my full infusion! Thanks, Randy!

  • With decent rhubarb I bet you had plenty of flavor after just a couple of days!

  • ann

    Oh, yeah, it was delicious!!

  • [...] another story.  Vodka and rhubarb sound ideal together.  In fact, my friend Thom sent me a tasty rhubarb-infused vodka recipe I’m dying to [...]

  • Andy m

    I have done this vodka with a little of sugar and also a vanilla pod( whole not split) in the later stages its like alcoholic rhubarb and custard :)

    • That's good to know. A comment above suggests using the spent rhubarb over vanilla ice cream. Adding vanilla directly to the infusion is a similar flavor combination. However, I prefer the flexibility of keeping the infusion just rhubarb because you can use it in other drinks that way. You could always construct a cocktail by adding some Navan liqueur or Licor 43 to add the sweet vanilla flavors.

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