3 Refreshing Rhubarb Cocktails Made With Homemade Rhubarb Syrup

You might be familiar with rhubarb pie but a rhubarb margarita? Rhubarb bellini? How about a rhubarb cosmo? Well, they're a thing and they all make for perfect summer drinks.

From left to right: Rhubarb syrup, rhubarb margarita, rhubarb belini, rhubarb cosmo

I recently renewed my CSA subscription. You know what I love about them? You wind up with produce that is outside of your normal day to day choices. 

Like a few weeks ago, my box included rhubarb. Rhubarb! I think I've only eaten it once in my life and it was in the form of a rhubarb pie at least 20 years ago. Holding the stalks in my hands, I realized I didn't know exactly what it was nor how to cook with it.

I did a little digging and found out that technically, rhubarb is a vegetable. However, in the late 1940s, a New York customs court legally had it classified as a fruit because most Americans ate it as such in desserts. This change in legal status helped smaller businesses by lowering tariffs on the crops. 

Rhubarb is a low calorie food very high in antioxidants, vitamins C and K, and a good source of calcium, potassium and manganese. It's also shockingly tart raw which is why it's usually cooked with sugar and often paired with berries to help mellow out their overly sour taste. Also of note, it is only the stalks of the plant that are safe to eat. The large triangular leaves are poisonous and though they have to be ingested in large amounts to be lethal, even the smallest amount can make you very sick. Usually, though, you'll find rhubarb sold like celery, as stalks with the leaves already removed. 

There are basically two types of rhubarb: the field-grown variety is available in Southern California typically from April through July. Stalks are thick, long and very sturdy and tend to be a beautiful dark red. The other is grown in greenhouses and is referred to as hothouse rhubarb. Peak season for hothouse-grown rhubarb is January through June. The stalks are much smaller and daintier than the field-grown variety, with thinner, shorter stalks that tend to be pink to a light red in color. This variety is a little milder than their field-grown counterparts and much less stringy. 

Although rhubarb can be a light green to pink to deep crimson all on one stalk, color isn't an indication of ripeness. In fact, technically, the stalks of a growing rhubarb are "ripe" all year-round. Harvesting of field-grown rhubarb is done when the leaves have reached a length of at least 10 inches to insure that the plant can survive the harvest. The reason that these growers don't harvest year-round is that over harvesting kills the plant. It's also important to let the plant rest and store up energy to survive the winter months. 

When shopping for rhubarb, look for stalks that are plumb and firm. Blemish-free stalks are nearly impossible to find so instead, choose stalks that have the least amount of nicks. To store, I wrap a paper towel around the stalks and put them in a plastic bag loosely wrapped before placing it in the vegetable drawer. Rhubarb should keep for two to three weeks.

To use the rhubarb, rinse it under cold running water and chop off the dry ends before proceeding with your recipe. Also, refrain from peeling the stalks; that gorgeous red skin is high in antioxidants and fiber. 

After doing some research, I decided I didn't want to make a dessert. Instead, I wanted to figure out a way to make cocktails from it. 

Enter stage left: The Cocktail Dudes and their recipe for rhubarb syrup. It was easy to make and easy to make delicious cocktails with. 

Making rhubarb syrup is easy as pie

Rhubarb, sugar water and a little time is all it takes to make a gorgeous rhubarb simple syrup to use in cocktails. Check it out:

After thoroughly rinsing the rhubarb stalks, they need to be chopped into 1/4-inch pieces.

Then they get boiled with water until they're completely broken down and look like a bunch of fibers.

Look at this gorgeous color! Once the rhubarb is strained through a fine mesh strainer, sugar is stirred in until dissolved.

Once cooled completely, pour it into a pretty, clean, sterilized air-tight bottle. The syrup will keep refrigerated for a few weeks. I've had mine for almost two months and it's still tasty and makes delicious cocktails.

Speaking of cocktails

Look how pretty these cocktails are! And they're not just pretty, we thought they were all so refreshing: a great balance between tart and sweet.

The Rhubarb margarita replaces most of the lime juice with the rhubarb syrup. For the rhubarb bellini, we're replacing the classic peach puree with the rhubarb syrup and we're adding a bit of elderflower liqueur to round out the flavor. For the cosmo, we're replacing the cranberry juice with the rhubarb syrup. For the margarita and the cosmo, a cocktail shaker comes in handy and for all three, I suggest placing the glasses in the fridge or freezer until cold so the cocktails stay cold longer.

How to make rhubarb syrup


4 stalks rhubarb, ends trimmed then chopped into ¼-inch pieces (about 1½ pounds)
3 cups water
1½ cups granulated sugar


Toss rhubarb into a cold saucepan. Pour in the water (should just cover the rhubarb, add more if it doesn't). Set heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir well with a wooden spoon then reduce heat to low to maintain a slight simmer. Stir once a minute for 3 minutes then allow to simmer for another 8 minutes. Stir again and simmer another 10 minutes. Stir again, this time using the spoon to break up any bigger pieces – most should already be pretty broken down to fibers. Simmer another 11 minutes.

Put a strainer over a bowl and slowly pour the rhubarb water through it. Resist the desire to squeeze out the excess with the spoon, you'll make your final product cloudy. Instead, leave the strainer over the bowl for 2 minutes and let it naturally seep through. Discard the fibrous leftovers.

Pour the sugar slowly into the bowl, stirring in one direction while doing so. Again, don't rush this process or you'll get a cloudy final product. Continue to stir in one direction for at least a full 3 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved and you feel no grit while stirring and the syrup has thickened. Allow to cool completely then refrigerate at least one hour before using. To story longer term, transfer to a clean, sterilized bottle and keep refrigerated for up to a month.

Adapted from The Cocktail Dudes

Rhubarb Margarita

Serves 1


lime wedge and wheel
coarse sea salt or margarita salt
2 ½ ounces silver Tequila
2 ounces rhubarb syrup
½ ounce Triple Sec
½ ounce agave nector
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice


Rub the lime wedge on the rim of a chilled margarita glass. Dip the glass into the salt to rim glass. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice; add ingredients and shake well. Strain into a chilled margarita glass filled with ice to taste. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Adapted from The Cocktail Dudes

Rhubarb Bellini

Serves 1


4 ounces St. Germain liqueur or other elderflower liqueur
2 ½ ounces rhubarb syrup
4 ounces chilled Prosecco 


Add the St. Germain and syrup to a chilled champagne flute. Top with the Prosecco and serve.

Rhubarb Cosmo

Serves 1

3 ounces Citrus vodka
2 ½ ounces rhubarb syrup
1 ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add ingredients. Shake well then pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

I hope the summer is treating you well. Summer weather is just starting to heat up in San Diego. We typically experience warm summer weather through October. So these cocktail recipes will be going into rotation quite a bit in the next few months!

Until next time friends … ¡Salud!
xo, ani


  1. Looks awesome! Great blog and gorgeous pics. I'll have to look for some rhubarb next time I'm at the store ��


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