One of my greatest near-summer memories was when — mere days away from college graduation — a big group of us piled into our cars and headed to the Dan River. We rented inner tubes and spent the entire day in the sun, lazily floating down the river with a stocked cooler. What I would give to be back there with this rhubarb margarita in hand — it’d be pure heaven!
This cocktail is the perfect mix of spring meets summer. Rhubarb is still at the markets (lucky us!), and it’s an awesome time to incorporate it into an ice-cold, sparkling cocktail. This margarita skates the line perfectly between spicy, sweet and tart. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to things tasting too liquor-y, so feel free to bump up the booze according to your liking.
Spicy Rhubarb Margaritas
Makes 4-6 margaritas
3 stalks rhubarb, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 fluid ounces tequila
2 fluid ounces Cointreau
8 fluid ounces fresh lime juice
10 fluid ounces reserved rhubarb syrup
1 fresh jalapeño, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt
Combine the rhubarb, water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sugar dissolves, the fruit softens, the liquid has thickened slightly and the hue is a pretty pink, 15 or so minutes. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Run the syrup through the strainer, giving the rhubarb a gentle press with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup. (Note: the cooked rhubarb is pretty tasty on toast. Save it for later or discard.)
In a pitcher, combine the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and rhubarb syrup. Give the mixture a taste and adjust the alcohol content accordingly. Add the jalapeño and transfer the margarita mixture to the refrigerator. Check the mixture every 15-20 minutes and do a taste test. I was happy with the spice level at the 30-minute mark. If you’re making this in advance, you could add the jalapeño just before serving, or alternatively you could remove the sliced jalapeño (by running the mixture through a sieve) and transferring it back to the fridge.
Mix together the salt and sugar on a small plate. Run a lime around the edge of the glasses to moisten; dip the rims in the salt and sugar mixture. Add a few ice cubes to each glass and divide the margarita mixture between the glasses. Top each margarita with a splash of sparkling water. Garnish with a few slices of jalapeño and/or rhubarb.
All photos by Adrianna Adarme.