rhubarb spritzer

It looks as refreshing as Kool-Aid, only waaaaay better: a spritzy drink mixed with homemade rhubarb syrup.

Rhubarb is one of those little understood (and little used) vegetables that crosses over into fruit territory. It is most often used in conjunction with its spring seasonal companions, strawberries and other berries, in desserts like pies, cobblers, buckles or betties – those baked delights that mix crusty and crispy with hot and sweet, and temper the tart rhubarb with lots of sugar.

While those sweet dishes are old favorites and worth trying, rhubarb reveals its hidden talents when you simmer it into a simple syrup for springtime spritzy drinks. And the rhubarb stalks themselves make perfect drink swizel sticks! (Just don’t be tempted to eat any stray leaves – they are poisonous; the rest of the vegetable, though tart, is healthy as can be.)

These rhubarb drink recipes come from Portland blogger and cookbook writer Jean Ann Van Krevelen, who proclaims a fanatical love of rhubarb and has the recipes to prove it (including some yummy rhubarb cake if you still want to fire up the oven).

Rhubarb Simple Syrup
2 cups rhubarb, cleaned and chopped
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
Add ingredients to a saucepan and cook until mixture reduces by a third. Rhubarb will be completely soft and sugar dissolved. Strain through cheesecloth to remove all fibers. (You can save the rhubarb to use in baked goods.)

Rhubarb Mint Cooler
Fresh mint leaves
Ice to fill
1 oz vodka
3 oz club soda
1 tbsp rhubarb simple syrup (recipe above)
In a tall glass, add mint leaves and muddle to release the oil. Add ice, vodka, club soda and rhubarb syrup. Stir to combine.

Lemon Rhubarb Soda
2 cups rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
2 cups water
2 lemons, zest and juice
lemon thyme
ginger ale
Simmer rhubarb, sugar, water, lemon zest, juice and thyme together until sugar dissolves and rhubarb is soft, cool. Remove thyme twigs, add remaining contents to a blender. Whir until smooth and frothy. Pour equal parts of rhubarb mix and ginger ale over ice.