Rhubarb Syrup

Book 19 in our cook-through project is The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss. As the subtitle, “A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping,” suggests, the book is a seasonally organized collection of recipes for foods and preserves and formulas for homemade cleaning products and toiletries. One of Kate’s sisters gave her a copy for Christmas, and we have both been looking through it and bookmarking things we want to make for the past few months. When it coincided alphabetically with the bumper rhubarb crop from our garden, it was obvious that we needed to start with the recipe for rhubarb syrup.

As with fruit syrups generally, it couldn’t have been simpler. The recipe has instructions for canning the finished syrup and processing it in a hot water bath to make it shelf stable, but, since it was a tester batch, which I figured we’d go through pretty quickly, I decided to cut the recipe in half and just refrigerate it.

The first step was cutting about a pound of rhubarb stalks into one inch chunks. Remember, rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so, if you are harvesting your own rhubarb, just bring in the stalks and put the leaves in the compost bin. Kate did some research and assures me that it’s safe to compost rhubarb leaves. Just don’t eat them.

Combine the chopped rhubarb in a medium sized saucepan with two cups of water and one and a half cups of sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft. Strain the the syrup through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a one quart measuring cup. When all of the liquid has drained through the sieve, gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and give it a gentle squeeze over the sieve to extract a bit more of the syrup. Stir two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice into the rhubarb syrup and it’s ready to pour into a jar, or jars, to store in the fridge until your are ready to use it.

But don’t throw away that rhubarb purée that’s left in your cheesecloth! It is delicious on its own to eat like applesauce. Kate and I added ours to our yogurt the next few mornings. It was an outstanding treat for breakfast, and we were sad when it was gone.

What do you do with the rhubarb syrup, you ask? If you know us at all, you’ll know that our plan is to use it in cocktails. Though not a cocktail, our first highly successful use was just to add an ounce or so to a glass of plain sparkling water and ice for a slightly sweet and tart homemade rhubarb soda. It was really refreshing and tasty.

We started our cocktail experimentation with a recipe for a French 75 variant that Erica Strauss included in her book, but I found her recipe unbalanced and felt that the rhubarb flavor was too muted. We came up with our own version we’re quite happy with that I’ve dubbed a Rhubarb Artillery Punch: shake one ounce each of London Dry Gin and rhubarb syrup along with three dashes of rhubarb bitters, if you have some, with ice and strain into a coupe or Nick and Nora glass. Top with three ounces of sparking wine, preferably brut, and enjoy. We have a rhubarb bitters how-to in progress, so watch this space to learn how to make you own.

We declare the rhubarb syrup a success and will be making a larger batch to can so we can have a taste of Spring through the rest of the year. Here’s a video we made to help you make a batch yourself.

Up next: Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook.

Kate’s Famous Bloody Marys

Anyone who has been to our house for brunch or spent a Sunday morning with us at an event knows that Kate makes the world’s best Bloody Marys. Trust us.


Kate's Famous Bloody Marys
The following proportions are for one cocktail, but Kate usually makes Bloody Marys by the pitcher, using a 3:1 ratio of tomato juice to vodka and seasoning to taste. For a fabulous variation, try a Bloody Maria by substituting tequila, lime juice, and Tapatío hot sauce for the vodka, lime juice, and Tabasco.
Recipe type: Cocktail
  • 1 ½ oz vodka
  • 4 ½ oz tomato juice (we’re fond of Campbell’s)
  • Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
  • Several dashes Tabasco sauce (to taste)
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes celery bitters
  • ½ tsp prepared horseradish (or more to taste)
  • A splash of dry sherry (we use amontillado)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (don’t be stingy with the pepper)
  1. Add tomato juice to a shaker or pint glass without ice.
  2. Stir, adding the balance of the ingredients one at a time.
  3. Taste frequently until it’s spicy/salty/acidic enough.
  4. The drink should be well-balanced, but with an assertive presence of lemon and spice.
  5. Add vodka, stir thoroughly, and pour into a tall glass filled with ice.
  6. Garnish with a stalk of celery, a couple of pickled green beans, or a skewer of pimento-stuffed olives and peeled cooked shrimp.


Celery Tonic

I promised three drink recipes this week and here is number two. This is another one that features our celery bitters and which can be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. As crazy as it may sound, we usually make the non-alcoholic version.  If you don’t have a bottle of Two Drunkards Celery Bitters, some good commercial ones have recently become available. I urge you to steer clear of Fee Brothers Celery Bitters, though. They have a very artificial flavor.

Celery Tonic
We’ve discovered that there aren’t a lot of things that are more restorative after overindulging, or just refreshing on a hot day, than a tall glass of soda water and ice flavored with several dashes of bitters. We usually don’t add any sweetener, but a little bit of simple syrup really helps bring out the lovely vegetal notes of the celery in this drink.
Recipe type: Cocktail
Serves: 1 cocktail
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 3-4 dashes celery bitter (or more to taste)
  • 6 oz soda water
  1. Add simple syrup and bitters to a tall glass and stir.
  2. Add several cubes of ice, fill with soda, stir again and enjoy.
  3. Garnish with a twist of lemon if you’re feeling festive.

I usually enjoy this as a non-alcoholic drink, but there is no reason you couldn’t replace an ounce of the soda water with vodka or London dry gin. In that variant, I would add the alcohol to the glass with the ice and stir before topping off the glass with soda.

The Fourth Regiment Cocktail and an update

A lot has happened since our last blog post, but the most important thing has been the very successful Indiegogo campaign to fund our licensing as a cottage food business. Thanks to our very supportive friends, and a surprising number of supportive strangers, we raised enough money to do some necessary improvements to our kitchen, do repairs to one of our ovens, purchase some new kitchen equipment, and get the Two Drunkards registered as a fictitious business name and licensed as a cottage food business. At this point we are still, I’m embarrassed to say, working on fulfilling the perks promised to our contributors, though I am happy to be on track to putting cocktail bitters and biscotti in the mail to the folks who chose those perks by the end of this week. Then I have a lot of bread to bake.

To celebrate the first shipment to our quarterly bitters club, which includes two ounces each of celery and orange bitters, we’re going to post three cocktail recipes this week. Here is the first one.

The Fourth Regiment Cocktail
Our intrepid hero Charles H. Baker, Jr. picked up this variation on the Manhattan from the commander of a British sloop of war in Bombay in 1931, and kindly recorded it in his Gentleman’s Companion. This version varies from the Manhattan by using a 1:1 rat ion of rye to sweet vermouth, instead of the usual 2:1, and adds orange and celery bitters to the standard Angostura. The resulting cocktail is a bit sweeter and rounder than a Manhattan with a nice savory vegetal undertone from the celery bitters.
Recipe type: Cocktail
Serves: 1 cocktail
  • 1 ½ ounces rye (Rittenhouse 100 proof is our favorite)
  • 1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica or another old formula vermouth works best here)
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash celery bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir.
  2. Strain into a coupe or Nick and Nora glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of lime peel.


Happy Apple Day

So I juiced some Fuji and Granny Smith apples that we had in the house yesterday and was inspired to work it into a cocktail this evening after the epic homemade orecchiette with butternut squash, chile and hazelnuts that we made for dinner. So, the Happy Apple Day was born.

The house made Bosc pear bitters that I used, which we made from the recipe in Brad Thomas Parsons’ amazing book “Bitters,” gave the cocktail a hit of baked pear, vanilla and spice that really worked with the crazy fresh apple juice.  If you don’t happen to have any pear bitters in your bar, a few dashes of an aromatic bitters, such as Angostura, will also make a great drink. 

1.5 ounces blended Scotch

1 oz freshly squeezed Apple juice

Several dashes of pear or aromatic bitters

Shake in an ice-filled shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. 

Marvel at how delicious it is.