Chemist in the Kitchen

June 17, 2015 at 11:30 am

Cherry Rhubarb Tom Collins

Cherry Rhubarb Tom Collins

Maybe it’s all the rain we’ve gotten recently, or maybe it’s the fact that I had to read 30 journal articles about neonatal pulmonary hypertension at work today, but either way I think it’s time for a drink.


I always get excited when summer rolls around because that means it’s finally rhubarb season! Rhubarb is a lovely, stalky plant known for its tart flavor and magenta appearance. The stalks are similar to celery in terms of their texture and water content, which isn’t that exciting but bear with me. When stewed in just a bit of water and some sugar, the stalks release their ample amounts of liquid and flavor to make a delicious juice, which can then be reduced into a syrup. Personally, I love stewing rhubarb with dark red cherries, resulting in a flavor profile that is sweet and complex with just a bit of tartness.


Cherries and Rhubarb


Little known fact: rhubarb stalks are botanically considered a vegetable, but back in the late 1940s a New York court case ruled that rhubarb should be considered a fruit since they are used as the main ingredient in fruit pies. This ruling was a big deal for rhubarb lovers in the U.S. because import tariffs for vegetables were almost twice that of fruits, and the official NY ruling allowed for greater amounts of rhubarb to be imported at a much lower cost. Rhubarb lovers rejoice!


Stewing Fruits


You can use this syrup in a million different ways such as on pancakes, waffles, in yogurt, ice cream, smoothies, in tea, or with soda water to make a cherry rhubarb soda. My favorite use of this refreshing syrup is, by far, in a Tom Collins. A Tom Collins is a gin-based cocktail that takes lemon juice, soda water, and simple syrup to sweeten the drink, then it’s topped off with soda water to give it a little fizz. In this recipe, the simple syrup is replaced with the cherry rhubarb syrup to add a refreshing, fruity flavor that is perfectly accented by the gin and lemon juice. I like to add a bit of mint to enhance that refreshing, summery taste. You can also save the fruit compote that is left over after straining out the juice and freeze it into cubes that can be added into drinks in the future (just watch out for any cherry pits). As the compote cubes melt, they turn your cocktail into a delicious fruit slushy. YUM.


Cherry Rhubarb Tom Collins


I have to say; I got a lot of satisfaction out of seeing my boyfriend voluntarily drink a hot pink cocktail. This is one drink that even the manliest of men will enjoy :) Cheers!


With love,



Cherry Rhubarb Tom Collins

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 2-3 cups


    For syrup:
  • Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
  • 1 pound rhubarb, cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 3/4 pound dark red cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Rind from 1 lemon (I use a vegetable peeler)
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1 cup water
    For Tom Collins:
  • Ice cubes or leftover compote cubes
  • 5 large mint leaves
  • 1 oz cherry rhubarb syrup
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 ½ oz dry gin
  • 2 oz soda water


    For syrup:
  1. Combine all ingredients for syrup in a large pot, mix well, and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, reduce to the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Periodically press on the cherries with a wooden spoon to help break them up, they will become more tender as they warm up.
  3. Place either a fine mesh strainer or a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a large bowl. Strain the mixture. Patience is key here, the longer you wait the more juice comes out (waiting approximately 1 hour resulted in 2 ½ cups syrup).
  4. Freeze leftover fruit compote in an ice cube tray (optional). Store the syrup in an air-tight container or bottle for up to three weeks.
    For Tom Collins:
  1. Gather the mint leaves together and gently twist to tear the mint leaves. Place in a tall glass.
  2. Fill the glass ¾ full of ice (or frozen compote cubes) .
  3. Add the cherry rhubarb syrup, lemon juice, and gin. Stir to combine.
  4. Top off with soda water and serve.

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