Apr 9, 2016

A Toast to Spring: Rhubarb Whiskey Sour

Yesterday, as I walked though my little town, I became light-headed with the scents of spring. Every tree and shrub seemed to have exploded into shameless bloom almost overnight, and the air was heady with sweetness. The days have warmed considerably and the peas and lettuces I placed, with petitions of strength to weather the frosts, in my garden not quite a month ago, have shot up through the earth and are happily drinking in the sun and occasional moisture.

While I was partaking of my first iced coffee of the season at my friend's cozy shop, a woman came in with a basket of rhubarb. Grown in a spot perfect for catching sunlight, her rhubarb was already rapidly producing, and she had come to share her first harvest. (My own plant is still in its alien stage, pushing creepy, red pod-like growths out of the earth.) My friend and I looked at each other and started gleefully listing the things we might do with the fruit (which is truly a vegetable) and after discussing my mother's rhubarb muffin recipe and assorted compotes and sauces, our minds turned to alcohol (as they do).

Rhubarb lore ~ serving a piece of rhubarb pie to your love will ensure their fidelity.

As we had already arranged a gathering of the wild ones last night, and our farmer friend was bringing samples of last autumn's corn for us to taste and vote on the best variety, we thought the beverage of the evening should be something that celebrates spring and contributed to the theme of locally grown ingredients. It was obvious that we should make rhubarb whiskey sours.

They turned out divinely. They were sweet and tart, and perfect in every way. I believe it should be the drink of the season. Even my friends who do not partake of whiskey, swooned over this libation.

Rhubarb lore ~ hanging rhubarb leaves over your grape or cucumber vines will repel insects that might damage your crop.

Jen's note: I'm not sure how well this would work, being that my rhubarb leaves get mercilessly chewed by grasshoppers, but I imagine that worms and other pests with less hearty appetites could not stomach the poisonous leaves (they contain oxalic acid which is corrosive and can cause kidney damage).

Rhubarb Whiskey Sour


whiskey or bourbon
rhubarb syrup

Optional:  egg white, garnish of your choice

Create a simple syrup by adding your chopped rhubarb to water, bring to a boil, mash and then strain, reserving the liquid. Add sugar or honey to the liquid in a 1:1 ratio and simmer until fully dissolved. Often a lighter syrup is fine for many drinks, and you may want to ease up on the sugar if that is your preference but I've found that, with something as tart as rhubarb, a rich syrup makes for a more palatable beverage.

To a shaker, add ice, 2 parts whiskey, 1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 to 1 part syrup (depending on how sweet you like it), and if you like a bit of tradition, add a tablespoon of egg white. Shake and serve straight or over ice. Garnish as you please.

Rhubarb lore ~ "A piece of rhubarb root, worn on a string round the neck, will protect the wearer against the bellyache." 
- Vance Randolph

Witch Notes ~ bits of this and that:

I have been absent for some time - longer than I had planned. To those who have tracked me down on social media, or contacted me via email, or simply sent up a flare to ensure I was still walking the middle world, thank you for your kindness. I am here. Those who have read the blog for a while know that I tend to hibernate in the cold months, but this winter pulled me under deeper than ever before.

I have much to report from my journeying and seeking and howling through the darkness. Tales I will tell in time. But for now, spring has me awakened, and I have traded in my bearskin for a lighter coat, and I wanted to return with a few sweet things for you to taste first, before I open up my bones for you and show you what I've discovered.

In the past months, I have been lingering over:

My brilliant friend Blu, The Seer, who has been a light in dark places. If you need some insight, I cannot recommend her enough.

Tales of swan maidens. I became enchanted with the swans that overwinter at our lakes here in The Valley, and couldn't tire of stories of feather robes and flying.

Skywatching. Absolutely stunned, every time. Find out what is happening above you, here or here.

My fox tail from Lupa. Bought for pleasure, and for potential mischief making at any number of Faerieworlds events in the coming year.

Blood and Spicebush - Becky introduced her "Folkloric Uses of Wood" series in January and I have been smitten since the first post. (You can also check her out on the latest episode of New World Witchery.)

Feather, Pencil, Trowel & Moon - Erin and I seem to cross over each other in spirit from time to time, and I fully expect that one day I will walk through my forest here in southern British Columbia and find myself beside her river in the Midwestern United States. Until then, and we can sit like proper witches and have tea, I read her gorgeous blog.

Sources for rhubarb info/lore:

Martin, Deborah J, "Baneful!" - pg 235-237
Randolph, Vance, "Ozark Superstitions"
The Rhubarb Compendium Web: rhubarbinfo.com