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Drink Of The Week: The Strawberry Barb

With so many spirits and liqueurs to try, it's easy to forget about flavored vodka. After all, most of what you can buy can be easily replicated at home. If you are just getting into cocktails, infusing vodka with some of your favorite flavors is an easy way to develop a taste for more diversity as you challenge yourself to try new things. Yet, despite how simple it is to make flavored vodka, I don't always consider it. Then rhubarb appears and I remember how delicious it can be!

You may recall from a previous post exactly one year ago that it doesn't actually take much to get a decent infusion, so long as you are using fresh rhubarb. My results are much better this year because I am using crisp, fresh stalks—about five per quart jar batch. Chop them into pieces and place these into the jar. Then, fill the remaining space with vodka. After a few hours the vodka turns pink, and after a few days you have some wonderful flavor. Strain out the solids and run it through a coffee filter to remove tiny particles. As far as I know, you can't buy rhubarb vodka off the shelf, and even if you could, it might not taste as good as your own homemade stuff.

So, once you have some great rhubarb vodka, what are you going to do with it? Make cocktails, of course. Last year I recommended a Cherry Rhubarb Sour, which was a fine drink, but this year, Kimberly and I are hooked on the Barb. I know, the name is silly and there's no great story behind it, but hey—when you write the post and create the recipe, you get to call it whatever you want!

Strawberry Barb
3 oz rhubarb-infused vodka
.5 oz fresh lime juice
.25 oz simple syrup (or .5 oz Cointreau)
1 strawberry

Slice one side off a fresh strawberry and set the smaller portion aside for a garnish. Muddle the rest of the strawberry in a shaker along with the lime juice and simple syrup. Add the rhubarb vodka, ice and shake to chill. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garish with the reserved slice of strawberry.

It's a simple drink—just a flavor-tinted sour when it comes right down to it. With good rhubarb, you end up with a fantastic infusion that not only carries the flavor and color, but also some of the bitterness. Some people don't like that, but I think it remains honest to how rhubarb actually tastes. As you build your cocktail, you can pair it with whatever you might be used to when you cook with rhubarb. In this case, it's strawberry. The lime's acidity helps to brighten the flavors and the simple syrup can be adjusted to your taste. My wife likes it to retain that sour, bitter bite, so we leave the simple syrup at just a quarter-ounce. However, if you want it to taste more like strawberry rhubarb jam, go for something closer to a half-ounce. Just remember, this drink has three ounces of vodka, so although some water mingles with the spirit during the infusion process, this is going to be a pretty strong cocktail, so drink responsibly.

The Barb also works with Cointreau (triple sec) in place of simple syrup. In fact, I like it a little better that way. Since you have plenty of infused vodka on hand, why not try muddled cherries and maraschino liqueur? As you experiment with liqueurs and other fruit, try adding mint, or a pinch of cinnamon, or flavored syrups for that matter. Just be warned: before you know it, your stash will be gone and so will the fresh rhubarb—until next year!

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