Black Currant – Rhubarb Margarita
By Bill Lau | Potable Pastime
I love Margaritas. It started out years ago with frozen strawberry Margaritas at Casa Gallardo in St Louis, when Sue and I (back in our dating days) would stop in for their awesome taco salad (or enchiladas or chiles rellenos or fajitas or…), often accompanied by a Margarita. As I was a beginning drinker at the time, the fruity, slushy concoction was perfect for me. (Sue was a bit ahead of me, more often ordering a regular Margarita, either frozen or on the rocks.) Of course, over time, my own preferences and palate evolved, to where the more traditional (and potent!) on the rocks Margarita became my regular libation with Mexican food as well.
But we both do still enjoy the occasional variation on the drink, combining something fruity with the basic lime juice/tequila/orange liqueur foundation. Tequila really is a pretty versatile spirit, and the unique styles (blanco, reposado, añejo) each offer a different experience and flavor profile upon which to build a cocktail. Case in point is this lovely combination of ingredients, especially well-suited for the arrival of Spring.
I came across this little gem of a recipe in the book Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks by Rick Bayless last year. At the time I tried this, rhubarb season was almost over, so I squirreled this one away for future use. A visit to Pipkin’s Market in Cincinnati this week revealed that rhubarb is already back in season, much to my surprise and delight. So obviously, the time is now right to share this.
First, you’ll need to obtain some fresh rhubarb stalks. Pick ones that are as nice and red in color as possible, and fresh (as in not limp like a wet noodle). You’ll need 3-4 stalks, depending on size; aim for about 8-10 oz in weight. Then follow the simple procedure outlined below to make a puree.
3-4 stalks fresh rhubarb, about 8-10 oz in weight
6 Tbs sugar
½ cup water
- Rinse rhubarb under running water and trim and discard the ends.
- Chop rhubarb into approximately half inch-sized pieces.
- Combine water and sugar in a saucepan, then add the rhubarb pieces and heat to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb becomes soft and even starts to fall apart (should take about 10 – 15 minutes).
- Allow to cool to near room temperature, then puree in a blender or food processor.
- Refrigerate if not using immediately; keeps for 5 days or so.
Above: Cooled and pureed rhubarb, ready to use.
Now, Mr. Bayless throws one additional twist into the presentation of the drink, calling for jamaica sugar instead of salt to rim the glass. Jamaica is what they call hibiscus in Mexico, and you can find dried jamaica flowers at any decent Hispanic tienda (look where they have the packaged dried herbs and spices). (Jamaica is also used to flavor a popular agua fresca, often found at authentic taquerias along with horchata and various fruit flavor aguas frescas.) This Margarita is still quite enjoyable with plain old sugar on the rim of the glass; in this instance, sweet pairs better than salty. But the addition of jamaica is the perfect finishing touch, if you ask me.
Jamaica (Hibiscus) Sugar
1/4 cup dried jamaica flowers
1/4 cup sugar
- Place ingredients in a blender and pulverize.
- If (like me) you cannot fully pulverize the jamaica no matter how hard you try (say, due to it being a little too tough and pliable and not fragile enough), strain the sugar through a fine sieve into a small bowl and discard the objectionable (i.e. non-pulverized) bits.
- Use for rimming glasses and store any extra in an air-tight container.
1 & 1/2 oz 100% agave blanco tequila such as Cabo Wabo or Espolón
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz premium orange liqueur such as Cointreau or John DeKuyper & Sons 03
1 oz rhubarb puree (2 Tbs)
1/2 oz creme de cassis
- Place some jamaica (or plain) sugar into a shallow bowl, moisten the rim of your serving glass (a slice or wedge of lime works nicely), invert and dip into the sugar.
- Combine ingredients & ice in cocktail shaker, cover & shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
- Strain into glass onto fresh ice, garnish as desired (a fresh hibiscus flower would seem perfect if you can get one) and serve.
- Repeat as necessary.