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Rhubarb Cocktails

Rhubarb doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

For me, rhubarb’s long, spindly stalks are a welcome sign that spring has arrived. The lead-up to rhubarb’s appearance is anxious, as I pray for warmer weather and the bounty that comes with it. Spring is the year’s most exciting harvest for many of us mixologists: Herbs, berries, stone fruits and, yes, rhubarb all find their way into our cocktail shakers.

The herbaceous perennial is botanically a vegetable but legally classified as a fruit in the United States because of the plant’s association with pies and other baked goods.

Me, I like my rhubarb best in drinks. Raw, rhubarb is not the most flavor-packed ingredient. But once you cook them, the stalks’ tart essence steps forward. As the ground thaws, I simmer rhubarb, sugar and water together, reducing the stalks to a sweet-tart syrup that I add to the gin-based Rhubarb & Strawberry Collins, along with gently bitter Aperol.

At Madam Geneva in New York, Brett Hughes turns rhubarb into a delicious shrub by gently heating it with sugar, raspberry vinegar, coriander and pink peppercorns. Use it in a Spiced Rhubarb Gimlet, boosted even more with rhubarb bitters. Other smart ways with rhubarb: adding marmalade for a Breakfast Martini from London’s Salvatore at Playboy; mixing with dry and delicate manzanilla sherry in the Rhubarb Fix; or sipping the delightful rhubarb-based amaro Rabarbaro Zucca.

Or add the syrup or shrub to club soda or seltzer. So refreshing on a balmy night. Rhubarb: It’s not just for pies.