Muddle mint leaves and rhubarb cardamom purée in a 12 oz julep cup. Fill with crushed ice. Add gin, then swizzle until ice forms on the outside of the glass*. Top with more crushed ice to fill glass.
Garnish with mint sprig.
*I don’t have a julep cup, so I used the smaller half of a boston shaker.
Guess what! It’s World Gin Day! And rhubarb season! And my mint is growing like gangbusters!
What to do with this delicious bounty? A twist on a julep immediately springs to mind. I do some research and find that both cardamom and angelica pair well with rhubarb. A little more searching leads me to this Gin Foundry article that explains that, along with juniper berries and coriander, angelica root is one of the dominant botanicals in most gins. I head to my local fancy bottle shop in search of a bottle of Plymouth Navy Strength or Hayman’s Royal Dock, both of which the article lists as angelica forward. No luck – but I do snag a bottle of Dogfish Head Whole Leaf Gin, the only bottle on the shelf that specifies angelica root as an ingredient. As a bonus, it also lists black cardamom.
The first thing I do when I get home is open the bottle to taste it. I’m immediately enamored with the bouquet – really jammy, with a berry nose that must be the cubeb berries, not that I’ve ever tasted them before. I take a sip and am impressed by how smooth it is. Even at 90 proof, this is one of the most sippable gins I’ve ever tasted – perfect for a julep.
To substitute for the simple syrup usually used in a mint julep, I make a rhubarb cardamom simple syrup. I start by mixing half a cup each of water and sugar in a small saucepan, then I add 4 ounces of chopped rhubarb stalk [Do not eat the leaves. They are poisonous.] and 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom seeds. I bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, reduce it to low and simmer for five minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cool for ten minutes.
After the mixture has cooled down, I taste the simple syrup and find that the rhubarb flavor is not as strong as I want it to be. Over the next ten minutes, I painstakingly remove all of the cardamom seeds, then purée the syrup & stalks in the saucepan using a handheld mixer.
I’m finally ready to make my cocktail, which, by this time, I’m definitely in the mood for. Since I don’t have a proper julep cup and am reaching maximum capacity for cocktail ware, I decide to use the small side of my boston shaker. It’s about four ounces bigger than your typical 12-ounce julep cup, but it will do. Into it I place 10 mint leaves and half an ounce of rhubarb cardamom purée, then muddle. [For a step-by step on proper muddling, check out this Michael Dietsch article on Serious Eats.] Next, I crush two trays of standard ice cubes in my Lewis Ice Bag, then fill my makeshift julep cup with crushed ice and pour in two ounces of gin. Finally, I vigorously swizzle all of the contents until the outside of the cup is encrusted with ice, then I top off with more crushed ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.
I take a sip and know what I’ll be drinking until rhubarb leaves the market. Make your own Rhubarb Gin Juleps and join your friends in a toast to World Gin Day. Cheers!
Rhubarb Cardamom Purée
1/2 cup sugar
4 oz chopped rhubarb stalk
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
Mix sugar with half a cup of water in a small saucepan, then add rhubarb stalk [Do not use the leaves. They are poisonous.]. Place 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom seeds into a reusable teabag or into a bouquet garni using cheesecloth, then toss it into the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, reduce it to low and simmer for five minutes, then turn off the heat, let it cool for ten minutes, then purée using a handheld mixer.