As you all now know, I like to take the annual christmas tipple quite seriously. After some months of browsing, I decided upon something that would look elegant and taste amazing. I can’t remember what it was called now, what I did learn from the whole experience is that there is nowhere to source white cranberry juice in this country. NOWHERE. I even emailed that well-known cranberry purveyor -Ocean Spray, who advised me that it was on sale for about a year in 2000 and something, but no-one wanted it, so they stopped importing it. I could have bought about 80 litres from Amazon US, but this seemed a little over the top.
On went my search, I was thinking about flavour combinations and I settled on rhubarb, because there was some left in the freezer from earlier in the year. I googled loads of rhubarby cocktail recipes and found some good ones but none of them really hit the mark. So, after lots of reading, I juggled ideas and tips from the giant book that is the world wide web and came up with, ta- dah The Rhu-Barbra Streisand! The name was perfect for many reasons…I wanted a sparkling cocktail because of how special the occasion was – the combining of the families for Christmas and because the 23 Skiddoo had worked so well previously.
I was really lax and didn’t try it out before Christmas day arrived when I’d have to pour it down the gullets of 12 discerning drinkers. It all could have gone terribly wrong, though mixing liquor and Champagne will ultimately numb anyones palate..
The Rhu-Barbra’s base is gin combined with a spiced rhubarb syrup drenched in Champagne then topped off with rhubarb bitters. Uncle John pronounced it the best Christmas Cocktail so far. That’s praise you go looking for. It really did work – elegant, not too sweet and a real treat to go with the Bloody Mary Bites, the Gentleman’s Relish, parmesan and chive pinwheels and Parma and goat’s cheese canapes a la Mary Berry.
Rhubarb bitters – I used Fee brothers. Bitters is used in lots of cocktails, we are probably most used to hearing about Angostura bitters but you can get lots of different types. Orange bitters is a classic addition to an old Martini. The bitters here intensifies the rhubarb flavour and just adds an extra dimension – although it can be left out.
The spiced rhubarb syrup
This is really simple, basically it’s just a flavoured sugar syrup. I know that Ikea is doing rhubarb cordial/syrup which you could just add the other stuff to if you can’t get hold of any rhubarb…
This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of syrup ( about 300-350 mls)
- 1 cup of rhubarb cut into 2cm chunks
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water
Plop all of this in a pan, bring it to the boil then simmer it until it’s all pink and syrupy- about 20 minutes or so. Strain the solids out and you’re left with the rhubarb syrup.
To this I added (basically what I could find in the cupboard)
– A thumb sized piece of ginger – sliced
– A sprig of fresh thyme
-6 pink peppercorns
About 10-15 coriander seeds (whole)
I brought everything back to the boil and then let it cool, put it into a sealable pot and left it in the fridge for 2 days. After 2 days I took the thyme out because I thought it was getting a bit overpowering. You can leave it or take it out before depending on how much you like the flavour. On the third day I strained everything else out of the syrup and put it back into the fridge.
For the base of about 4 drinks, shake up, with ice:
75 mls of Gin
50 mls of Spiced rhubarb syrup
10 mls of Freshly squeezed lemon juice
alter the quantities and this could be a nice, short little cocktail to be served in a martini glass.
I filled a Champagne glass about a quarter of the way up with the gin mix and then topped it with Champagne and allowed 3-4 drops of rhubarb bitters to top it off.
Later that evening after many more bottles of, well everything, we did a little family Karaoke. Dad sat looking stunned, Ria basically rapped everything and Uncle John bellowed out musical greats. I’ll be damned if we didn’t forget to sing a little Streisand..!