27 May 2011

Rhubarb Cordial and a Rhubarb Gin & Tonic – Recipe

We're just starting to enter the rhubarb season here in Norway, and after spotting some decent specimens in the supermarket the other day I threw a few stalks in my shopping trolley without any particular plan as to how I'd use them. I love rhubarb, but it's not something I use that often. I had vague ideas of making a rhubarb crumble, but apathy got the better of me. Until, that is, I thought of making a rhubarb drink. Here was a ludicrously simple way of getting a lovely hit of tart rhubarb. I couldn't not give it a go.

I found one recipe for rhubarb cordial in Trina Hahnemann's The Scandinavian Cookbook, but making rhubarb syrup is very straightforward, and essentially involves simmering rhubarb with sugar and water. That's it. The end result is a vibrant pink and viscous liquid that you can use much as you would any cordial or syrup. Diluted with water, it makes a wonderful cooling drink for a warm summer's day, or you could perhaps drizzle it over warm buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, or serve with vanilla ice cream.
Ingredients (makes around 750ml)
  • 1kg rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 5cm pieces
  • 400ml water
  • 350g sugar
  1. Place the rhubarb in a saucepan with the water. Cover and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes
  2. Strain the cooked rhubarb through a sieve collecting the juices in a bowl. Make sure you squish the rhubarb with a wooden spoon to get every last drop of juice
  3. Place the strained liquid in a clean saucepan, add the sugar and bring to the boil so that the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming any foam from the surface
  4. Pour the hot liquid into sterilised containers for later use. To serve, use one part cordial to two parts cold water
As delicious and refreshing as the rhubarb cordial is on its own, I suddenly had a rare flash of inspiration. Where had I tasted that distinctive sweet/sour flavour combination before? Of course, at London's Bob Bob Ricard, where the signature drink is a very quaffable rhubarb gin & tonic (I speak from painful experience, as the mother of all hangovers can attest to) that is served like this.

I had seen one method of making it (here), which advocated making rhubarb infused gin first. This was no use to me as I'd already used up all the rhubarb I had to make the cordial. Instead I just used the cordial (which is basically a rhubarb infused simple syrup anyway) and shook it together with some Tanqueray London Dry gin, a couple of drops of Angostura bitters, and some lemon juice, and then added it to a splash of tonic water in a chilled glass.
One of the best things about Bob Bob Ricard's rhubarb G&T is its lovely delicate and frothy head, but I wasn't too sure how I would create it. Spurred on by some advice from Elly at Bristol's Pear Café I threw in a dollop of egg white – as you'd do for a whiskey or pisco sour – which did the trick perfectly, resulting in a head of light but densely packed bubbles. It took a little bit of trial and error until I got the right mix (note to self: do not put tonic water in the cocktail shaker before shaking), but below are the amounts I used. Feel free to play around with the proportions to suit your taste.

The end result was a pretty good impersonation of the real thing they serve at Bob Bob Ricard. And if I closed my eyes, I could almost, almost, imagine being back in that crazy Liberace-esque dining room. Happy times indeed.

Ingredients (makes 2 small glasses)
  • 2 shots chilled gin
  • 1 shot cold tonic water
  • 3 shots cold rhubarb cordial (from above)
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp egg white
  • 4 drops Angostura bitters
  1. Place all the ingredients except for the tonic water in a cocktail shaker with 2 cubes of ice
  2. Shake like billy-o
  3. Pour into 2 chilled glasses, into which you have divided the tonic water
  4. Drink
  5. Smile :-)
(Postscript: I have since been reliably informed by Bob Bob Ricard co-owner Leonid that their version doesn't include any egg white. I tried making the drink without egg but I just couldn't get a decent enough foamy head. Apparently it took them almost 6 months to perfect their version. How they did it, I honestly do not know. Answers on a postcard please).


  1. OH MY GOOODNESS, that BBR cocktail is one of my favourite things in the world, going to have to make some... we have a lot of rhubarb on our allotment, though not pink now, of course, but I can still get the flavour!

  2. Hi Kavey! I know, it's such a drinkable drink - one of the highlights of a visit to BBR. Let me know how you get on if you try and make it.

  3. I've made the cordial and now I'm awaiting the gin! Although my rhubarb was mostly green, it still came out as a delicate pink liquid, like yours. As far as foam is concerned, they *could* use a (hand) blender (like when chefs make foam 'sauces'), but it seems a lot of work.