Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rhubarb Bitters

A good friend of mine had an abundance of rhubarb this year, as she does every year, and therefore I had an abundance of rhubarb too (thank you Erin K.). As rhubarb is often heralded as the "Harbinger of Spring" I thought it only fair to treat this tasty, bitter treat with the utmost respect - which means to drink it. 

I had already made rhubarb-cherry crisp, strawberry-rhubarb crisp, rhubarb-strawberry compote, and I froze a few bags of chopped rhubarb for a later date. But inspiration for rhubarb bitters came from an article I read in my new favorite magazine, Imbibe. What follows is a slightly adapted recipe for Rhubarb Bitters, which is part of their recipe for a Charmane's Star (May/June 2011). 

I still have a few days before the bitters are fully matured, but I'll be breaking them out for a big weekend BBQ, which will feature a "Bacon Explosion"! More details and photos to come on that, but in the meantime just Google it. 

Rhubarb Bitters
3/4 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks (sliced into 1-inch pieces)
1 cinnamon stick (for a less "earthy" flavor try a Vietnamese cinnamon stick)
Zest of one medium orange
Zest of 1/2 grapefruit (preferably a Ruby Red)
375 ml. Everclear
6 oz. distilled water
1 oz. agave nectar or 1 1/4 ounces of raw sugar
(optional: 5 cloves or one juniper berry, 3-inch tamarind pod with seeds and three coriander seeds)

Combine the rhubarb pieces, cinnamon stick, orange zest, grapefruit zest and Everclear (plus the optional ingredients if using) in a clean quart-size Mason jar and cover. Shake daily for two weeks. Strain and then filter liquid into a new jar and add water and agave nectar or raw sugar. Will keep for up to one year, but you'll probably drink it all before then.

Tip: I really like this zest tool from OXO. 


  1. This is pretty fantastic. Can't wait to start a batch of my own. I'm always looking for a way to use my rhubarb that doesn't involve candy-sweetness.

  2. I've been a fan of the Fee Brother's Rhubarb Bitters in my spring Tom Collins and can't wait to give these a whirl next year (rhubarb season being short and over here).

  3. awesome... when I was little I used to sneek a cup of sugar out to the garden and take rhubarb and dunk it in the sugar and eat it that way. Can't wait to get ours started next year

  4. I'll have to try the sugar-in-the-yard trick! Word is spreading around my town that I'll take the rhubarb. I'm always surprised by those who are so quick to dismiss this as a "weed" when it's so tasty and versatile.

  5. Do you press the rhubarb after removing it from the liqueur?

    Have you ever made rhubarb wine? It is excellent.

  6. Matt, I don't press that hard, more like a very gentle push. I've not made rhubarb wine, but it does sound excellent. Maybe I'll give it a try this year. Do you have a recipe? Thanks!

  7. I created a recipe based off of this forum thread: You can scale accordingly, but I think the addition of pineapple juice is important.

  8. Wondering whether keeping the white citrus pith attached to the zest or peel would enhance the bitters in a positive way? Normally, the pith is removed in most recipes because it is bitter. But, since bitter is the whole idea here, would including the pith work towards the goal?

  9. Sea food is not my favorite wven though i am non vegetarian. I also believe that meat must be part of our diet to have a healthy diet with all vitamins.