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Drink of the Week: Rurita

Not long ago we made some great rhubarb-infused vodka. What I never shared was that in addition to the vodka, I also infused some gin. I figured that while the rhubarb was still available I might as well try it. Then the May/June 2001 issue of Imbibe Magazine came out and there was a nice recipe for Rhubarb Bitters. Yep, I made that too, and as recipes go, this was not much more than chopping up some stuff and throwing it into a jar for a couple of weeks.

The "stuff" includes lots of rhubarb, some grapefruit peel, orange peel, and cinnamon all macerated in a jar of high-proof neutral spirits, then diluted some with water and sweetened with agave. It's not exactly bitter, but it has a great concentrated flavor that can be used to add complexity to cocktails or to season them to bring other ingredients together. Of course, you don't have to make rhubarb bitters to pull this off. You can buy some if you can find it. Fee Brothers Rhubarb Cocktail Bitters will work, but it's fun to make your own.

When it came time to try my bitters, I went back to the magazine and found this little gem by fellow blogger, Michael Dietsch, A Dash of Bitters:

Rurita by Michael Dietsch
2 oz blanco tequila
.5 oz Cynar
.5 oz fresh lime juice
.25 oz simple syrup
3 dashes rhubarb bitters
2 drops orange flower water, to rinse glass

Rinse a cocktail coupe with orange flower water and discard excess. Shake remaining ingredients with ice and strain into the glass.

How could I pass up another recipe that uses Cynar? Here's a nice cocktail with Tequila, and let's face it, there are not enough of those around! Add my favorite amaro and some lime juice and you already have a fantastic balance of sweet, sour, strong and complex. The rhubarb bitters ties it all together and the orange flower water adds a wonderful aroma that really is the icing on this cake. Give it a try if you can gather the ingredients, and check out Michael's blog. Oh, and grab a copy of Imbibe while you are at it.


11 comments to Drink of the Week: Rurita

  • Paul

    Hi Randy ! I was wondering when making the rhubarb bitters if I can use my 151 proof Bacardi rum as base spirit for this too ? I guess the rhubarb should be in majority. How much of the rest of the ingrediens would you use, say I use 2 stalks of rhubarb. What other cocktails would you try it in ? I guess I can always experiment, but then again I don't want to ruin something that already tastes good. Do you think you could try some in the Bitter Branch ?

  • Paul

    By the way the Fee Brother's Rhubarb Bitters has a strength of 4,5 % ( 9 proof ). I wonder if it keeps, or are there lots of preservatives in it too ?

    • Paul, I followed this recipe:

      You could use Bacardi 151 although it's not flavor neutral. I don't think that will hurt since you are using some spices and fruit anyway. It actually comes out with a complex flavor profile that makes it hard (for me anyway) to specifically identify rhubarb alone. If I made it again I might focus more on that ingredient and have less spice and citrus.

      I don't know what the Fee's formulation is, but it may also have citric acid or some other basic ingredient that helps preserve it.

  • Paul

    Can I use 80 proof vodka, or is that too weak ?

  • Paul

    Hi Randy ! How about 70% ( 140 proof ), which I found a source for ? In the recipe above it says that the final product keeps for 2 months- wouldn't it be longer if you keep the percentage this high ? or do you need to dillute it prior to usage?

    • I've had mine more than a year and a half. I think they say 2 months to protect themselves from liability. Higher percent will extract more essence faster. Once you reach a certain level of total alcohol by volume, going higher probably won't preserve it any better.

  • Paul

    The recipe makes more than half a litre of bitters. If I cut the recipe in half or even a third I will get an amount more managable. I was wondering about the water added. I want to end up with a product around 50% as so little is used in each drink I feel it's better to keep it on the stronger side to expand the shelf-life. If I use 6 oz of 70% spirit, how much water should be added to lower the percentage to approximately 50%. There is also water in the rhubarb stalks which will be extracted by the alcohol through osmosis I presume ? Is there some kind of alcohol converter on the internet one can use, or is there a mathematical formula ?

    • Paul, It's going to be pretty hard to measure the water impact from the rhubarb. It could shed water, or it could hold it. It's hard to say. I would guess that the water would intermix and slightly dilute the alcohol, but it's hard to estimate. You could try juicing an equal amount of fruit, strain it, then see how much volume that is. That's a lot of work. I would probably just ignore the fruit and make calculations based on the liquid ingredients alone, and know that it will fall below by some amount. It's best to make a spreadsheet to calculate things like this.

      6 ounces of 70% alcohol is like having 4.2 ounces of 100% pure alcohol and the rest is water. To get to 50% by volume, you need to have an equal amount of water to pure alcohol which would bring the total to 8.4 ounces. Since you already have 6 ounces total, you need to add another 2.4 ounces of water to get there.

  • Paul

    I wonder if I can just use the 70 % spirit when making the bitters and skip dilluting it at all ? I mean you only use a dash or two of it in the drink, so does it make any major difference if the final product is 40 % or 70%. It will keep better with the higher percentage too.

    • Paul, many would argue that you would be making a tincture, or basically a fluid extract. I am not a bitters expert in any case, but I think you can pretty much do whatever you want. If you like the flavors and how it works in cocktails, go for it.

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