Now that our days are once again filled with sun and heat, refreshing cocktails are a must. Licor 43 recently hosted a bartender competition in Boston and Josh Taylor of Westbridge in Cambridge, MA took top prize for his “Backyard Cocktail,” a creation that reminds him of what summer porch sipping is all about. The cocktail is a seasonal concoction of rhubarb shrub with strawberry and lime juices perfectly balancing the vanilla-citrus sweetness of Licor 43, a combination that captivated the judges and the members of the audience in attendance.
To make this cocktail, the most difficult ingredient to source was the rhubarb for the Rhubarb Shrub. I suppose that is payback for the years I tried to kill off a plant when I didn’t know what it was, right? Typically not something available in abundance at our local grocery I was fortunate to find a stash at Sprouts and I could finally offer up a cocktail using the Licor 43 I received months ago!
Shrubs are drinks that date back to Colonial days when they were made with sweetened vinegar fruit syrups blended with rum or brandy. Not to be confused with garden plants, their name is derived from sharab, an Arabic word meaning syrup, and sharbat, a Hindi word for an aromatic syrup made from fruit, or herb and flower extracts, that is stirred into water and served over ice. Today even the frozen treat called sherbet can be traced back to this word.
Concentrated syrups similar to drinking vinegars, shrubs were especially valuable prior to refrigeration as another way to preserve perishable food items from the bounty of summer; allowing berries and stone fruits to be enjoyed during the winter months. They are a great blend of tart and sweet and were quite popular in the 19th century to flavor sodas and tonics until they eventually lost favor to commercially produced soda.
All thanks to the resurgence of craft cocktails, shrubs are making a big comeback along with handcrafted bitters and cocktails using seasonal produce. The beauty of craft cocktails is that they can often be recreated at home with the right ingredients and a bit of time. This shrub was made from cooking the rhubarb on the stove-top, so even faster than other methods that require days of steeping.
Licor 43 mixes especially well with the flavors of summer from rhubarb to strawberry to pineapple and citrus so it was the perfect fit for the combination of summer fruits and a bit of citrus. Crafted in the ancient Spanish city of Cartagena, Licor 43 is a versatile sweet liqueur with notes of vanilla, citrus and orange blossom. Made from 43 ingredients in a millennium-old recipe known only to three members of the Zamora family, Licor 43 has a seductive bouquet, a gorgeous gold color and a lushness that speaks of the spirit of Spain.
I often make cocktails that just sound good and plan to develop a post about them. I just as often cross my fingers that I will actually like the cocktail and I’ve been VERY lucky; few fail. But there is always that moment and in this case that moment wasn’t until after I had done ALL of the work, including photos. Considering I’ve never really loved rhubarb this was a huge leap of faith…so I’m wondering if you heard me squeal in delight. This is SO good; absolutely outstanding. You did good Josh; I see why you won. Sort of a grown up strawberry-rhubarb pie, this cocktail is perfect for warm weather imbibing!
The Backyard Cocktail
Easy and seasonal; the perfect cocktail for right now!
For the Rhubarb Shrub
- 2 pounds rhubarb, chopped 1/4 inch thick
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
For the cocktail
- 1 1/2 oz Licor 43
- 3/4 oz Rhubarb Shrub
- 1/2 oz Fresh Strawberry Juice
- 1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
- Club Soda (I used Perrier Lime Sparkling Water)
- Strawberry for garnish
To Make the Rhubarb Shrub:
- Combine the rhubarb, apple cider vinegar, and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring as the rhubarb begins to break down.
- Bring to boil and then educe heat to low and cook until the rhubarb is completely broken down into strands, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and pour into a colander or fine mesh strainer lined with a layer of cheesecloth. Stir the mixture gently once or twice to help it strain, but do not press it through the cheesecloth. Discard the solids.
- Pour the resulting syrup into a jar and let cool to room temperature.
- Store in the refrigerator.
To Make the Cocktail:
- Combine the Licor 43, rhubarb shrub, strawberry juice, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker and shake lightly. Strain into a highball glass over ice. Top with club soda, garnish with a whole strawberry and serve with a straw.