Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour: Drought Relief Dream is a Gin Sour using McDonough’s 1883 Silver Sour recipe, with a Tasmanian honey and seasonal pickle rhubarb twist, using leatherwood honey syrup and leatherwood mead combined with a jammy rhubarb shrub syrup, real free range organic egg white and pepper berry infused oaked gin, garnished with Angostura bitters and a rain drop on a nasturtium leaf. The leatherwood honey used in the Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour was produced by Honey Tasmania during the 2019 drought when there were only 5 days of leatherwood flowers and the bees foraged for food from other flowers, resulting in a lighter leatherwood flavour. Showcasing local producers affected by the drought and using their products, as in this Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour: Drought relief dream, is one way of highlighting the impact of drought for the ancient leatherwood trees, bees and local producers. The Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour is a rich and complex sour gin based drink that features Tasmanian honey, mead and gin – offering the dream of drought relief in the form of a balm of spicy leatherwood honey syrup, leatherwood mead and 40 spotted gin featuring the warmth of Tasmanian pepper berries along with a complex blend of other botanicals in a final oaked gin that has a golden hue. The rhubarb shrub syrup is produced using a heat process for a rich thick syrup and has a jammy cooked rhubarb flavour complemented by vanilla, cinnamon, leatherwood honey and light muscovado sugar, preserved with a mix of white wine vinegar and white balsamic vinegar. Nasturtium leaves are edible and hold raindrops with such beauty that this seemed a simple and elegant garnish for dreaming of relieving a drought with drops of rain held on a leaf, that a bee could safely drink with a long tongue.
What is a Silver Sour?
A Silver Sour is a Sour using the formula: citrus, sugar, water, ice, spirit – that calls for the addition of egg white, to create texture and creaminess and a frothy foamy head.
History & evolution of the Sour – David Wondrich (2015: 118) in Imbibe describes how the Sour formula and especially the Whiskey Sour, became popular in the 1860’s in America. Tristan Stephenson (2016: 460-462) in The Curious Bartender explains how Jerry Thomas provided the first printed Sour recipes in his 1862 Bar-tender’s Guide: Bon-vivant’s Companion. The Sour formula evolved over time becoming more complex in the 1880’s, with the addition of extra ingredients, such as red wine as in a New York Sour, egg white in a Silver Sour, egg yolk in a Golden Sour, whole eggs in an Egg Sour, cordials or liqueurs such as Cointreau, seltzer water, fancy fruit garnishes and use of fancy footed glasses (Wondrich 2015: 115-119; McDonough 1883: 11, 43-44). The Sour has roots in the older Punch formula – strong, sweet, sour, weak, spice – although it is missing the spice element (Wondrich 2015: 112). The Sour is also closely related to other later Sour style drinks including the Daisy and the Fizz – see my posts on blood orange Daisy and apple Fizz for more on the evolution of the Sour and related drinks and for more on the history of Punch see coconut palm arrack punch.
Egg white – was an ingredient used as early as 1883 in American Sour recipes, such as McDonough’s 1883 Silver Sour – using Gin; and a Frosted Sour – using Bourbon Whiskey (Wondrich 2015: 118; McDonough 1883: 44, 11). David Wondrich (2015: 118) elaborates that egg white became popular in European Sour recipes in the 1920’s and continued to be a feature of American Sour recipes after Prohibition.
Cordials or liqueurs – such as Cointreau were paired with Brandy in ‘advanced sours’ of the 1880’s such as Jerry Thomas’ Egg Sour which combines Brandy, Cointreau and a whole egg, along with sugar and lemon to be shaken with ice and strained (Wondrich 2015: 119; Stephenson 2016: 460-462; Thomas 1887: 891).
McDonough’s Silver Sour recipe – McDonough’s Silver Sour recipe appears in 1883 in McDonough’s Bar-Keeper’s guide and gentleman’s Side-Board companion (McDonough 1883: 44). McDonough’s (1883: 11, 43-44) bar-tending manual includes recipes for the following egg based sours:
- Frosted Sour: Bourbon Whiskey and egg white, lemon-sugared rim
- Silver Sour: Gin and egg white
- Golden Sour: Brandy or Rye Whiskey and egg yolk
These 3 Sour variations using eggs are closely related to the root Sour formula provided in the manual, the Brandy Sour, calling for sugar, water, citrus, brandy, to be shaken with ice and strained into a small bar glass – McDonough (1883: 11) advises in the Frosted Sour recipe:
“Use sliced fruit, in season, for Sours, as it improves their flavours.”
Ingredients in the Silver Sour – The Silver Sour calls for:
- Powdered sugar – 1 tablespoon
- Water – ½ wine glass
- Lemon or lime juice – 5-6 dashes
- Egg white – 1
- Gin – 1 wine glass
How to make a Silver Sour: Shake & strain – The powdered sugar, water, citrus, egg white and Gin are to be added to a ‘large bar glass one-third full of cracked ice’ – the direction is to ‘shake, and strain in small bar glass’ (McDonough 1883: 44). David Wondrich (2015: 118-119) in his helpful notes on ingredients and execution of the Sour explains how it is preferable to dissolve powdered sugar first in the water or citrus juice or to use sugar syrup, omitting the water from the recipe, except for topping the drink with seltzer water. Steps for dissolving the powdered sugar are not laid out in McDonough’s 1883 recipe for a Silver Sour – although the presence of powdered sugar, water and citrus as ingredients suggests the water and citrus would have dissolved the powdered sugar. McDonough (1883: 11, 43-44) calls for presentation in a small bar glass and a seasonal fruit garnish for Sours, as indicated in the Frosted Sour recipe.
How is the Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour: Drought relief dream different?
The Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour is a seasonal pickle and honey twist on the Silver Sour recipe where the souring element of lemon or lime juice is swapped out for a jammy heat processed rich rhubarb shrub syrup flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla, complemented by a Honey Tasmania 2019 drought leatherwood honey syrup, leatherwood mead, real free range organic egg white, 40 spotted oaked gin, garnished with Angostura bitters and a rain drop on a nasturtium leaf. The Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour showcases leatherwood honey produced during the 2019 drought in Tasmania, along with other Tasmanian products including letherwood mead and 40 spotted oaked gin with Tasmanian pepper berries.
Leatherwood honey syrup – 1:1 honey: warm water, is used instead of powdered sugar and water or a sugar syrup. The leatherwood honey used in the honey syrup was produced by Honey Tasmania during the 2019 drought and features a lighter, although still spicy, leatherwood flavour as the bees had only 5 days of leatherwood flowers rather than a whole season and thus found their food from other flowers. Honey Tasmania details how leatherwood is an ancient Tasmanian tree – the forest being 65 million years old, with leatherwood trees having a lifespan of 350 years. During 2019, leatherwood trees were sadly impacted by drought – with some bees unable to find enough food to survive. Showcasing the Honey Tasmania 2019 drought leatherwood honey in this Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour is my way of drawing attention to the impact of climate change and specifically the drought for the ancient leatherwood trees, bees and local producers.
Honey enhances ‘foaminess’ – Dave Arnold (2014: 792) writing in his amazing book Liquid Intelligence explains that honey contains ‘protein’ and that:
“…proteins will increase the foaminess of shaken drinks, especially those with acidity in them as well.”
This Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour combines the proteins of honey with those of egg white and the acidity of white wine vinegar and white balsamic vinegar in the jammy rhubarb shrub syrup – producing a rich foamy and creamy luxurious mouth feel and texture.
Leatherwood mead – or honey wine, from Mountain View Meadery adds extra spicy honey flavour to the Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour. The base spirit is an unusual oaked gin that features heat from Tasmanian pepper berries and a complex mix of other botanicals (see below for more about the gin). The mead is used in a similar manner to use of cordial or liqueur in Jerry Thomas’ 1887 Egg Sour (Thomas 1887: 891) recipe to add an accent of intense leatherwood honey flavour to complement the oaked gin.
Jammy rhubarb shrub syrup – uses heat processed rhubarb for a rich thick tart jammy cooked rhubarb flavour complemented by leatherwood honey, cinnamon and vanilla and light muscovado sugar, preserved with white wine and white balsamic vinegar. The rhubarb flavour adds depth and complexity to the Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour that would not be possible when using citrus alone as a souring agent. Shrubs provide complex seasonal flavour pairings that can transform citrus based Sour drinks such as with a combination of pineapple and fennel, pear and ginger or cherry and cacao, and raspberry and lime. The method used to make the cooked rhubarb shrub syrup is that outlined by Dietsch (2016: 1368) in his wonderful book Shrubs where he goes into some detail about the variation in flavour and consistency that can be created by making shrub syrups using a cold process (bright flavour, thin syrup) or heated process (jammy flavour, thicker syrup). Cooking the rhubarb offers a thicker and richer syrup with the jammy flavour of cooked rhubarb enhanced by spices, honey, white wine and white balsamic vinegar and light muscovado sugar. For a cold process rhubarb shrub syrup that has a brighter flavour and a thinner consistency see my Rhubarb shrub Gin Fix recipe. The jammy thick spiced rhubarb shrub syrup with strong sweet white balsamic vinegar complements the 40 spotted oaked gin with heat from pepper berries, blended with the spicy leatherwood honey accent from leatherwood honey syrup and leatherwood mead.
Real free range organic egg white – adds creamy rich texture to this Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour.
40 spotted rare Tasmanian gin – is an oaked gin featuring juniper and a mix of other botanicals including coriander and lemon and importantly, Tasmanian pepper berries, which have a warm spicy flavour. Oaked 40 spotted rare Tasmanian gin has a rich golden hue.
Making a Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour – Reverse dry shake – Following the method outlined by Tristan Stephenson (2016: 194) in The Curious Bartender the Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour is made using a ‘reverse dry shake’ to aerate the egg white. The reverse dry shake uses an initial shake with ice, the drink is then strained and shaken a second time without ice resulting in a thicker and creamier texture. I have tried using a dry shake and then a shake with ice compared to the reverse dry shake and can recommend the reverse dry shake – it increases the creaminess of the texture and mouthfeel.
Garnish & styling – I have served the Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour in a vintage coupe glass. The coupe is a little fancier than the small bar glass called for in McDonough’s 1883 Silver Sour Recipe but in line with the 1880’s trend of serving Sours in a fancy footed glass. I garnished the Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour with drops of Angostura bitters teased out with a toothpick into a pretty design, along with a rain drop on an edible nasturtium leaf that represents the drought relief dream in the form of a single rain drop that perhaps a bee would dream of drinking.
Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour: Drought relief dreamPrint Recipe
- Leatherwood honey syrup: 1 part 2019 drought leatherwood honey: 1 part warm water
- Jammy rhubarb shrub syrup: 1 bunch rhubarb, (approximately 450gms) leaves and hard ends of stems removed and washed well
- A little water – up to 20mls, just enough to stop the rhubarb sticking and burning, until it begins to break down
- 1 tablespoon 2019 drought leatherwood honey
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod, and the pod
- 4 dessert spoons light muscovado sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 60mls white wine vinegar
- Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour: 1 bar spoon 1:1 2019 drought leatherwood honey syrup
- ½ shot jammy rhubarb shrub syrup
- 1 bar spoon leatherwood honey mead, Mountain View Meadery Leatherwood used here
- 1 real free range organic egg white
- 2 shots 40 spotted rare Tasmanian gin (oaked gin with pepper berries)
- Garnish: Angostura bitters, edible nasturtium leaf with a drop of water
- Glassware: vintage coupe
Leatherwood honey syrup: stir to combine equal parts 2019 drought leatherwood honey and warm water, keep leftover honey syrup in the fridge
Jammy rhubarb shrub syrup: remove the leaves and hard ends of stalks of the rhubarb and wash well
Cut the rhubarb stalks into small sections
Add the cut rhubarb, along with a little water to a medium sized saucepan
Add the cinnamon, honey and vanilla seeds and pod
Warm gently, stirring until the rhubarb reaches a simmer, turn down the heat and add a lid to the saucepan, continue to watch carefully and stir to avoid the rhubarb sticking and burning
Continue to simmer until the rhubarb has broken down and is cooked through
Remove the vanilla pod
Use a fine wire mesh sieve to strain the rhubarb over 1-2 hours to produce a thick syrup, use the back of a wooden spoon to gently press the cooked rhubarb from time to time, reserve the rhubarb pulp for another use, such as in smoothies or as a topping for ice cream – the yield of the rhubarb syrup for 450 gms rhubarb with 20 mls water was 90 mls
Meanwhile, sterilise your jar by washing in hot soapy water and rinsing thoroughly, add to a cookie sheet in a 110 C oven, for 15 minutes or until completely dry, boil the lid in boiling water in a saucepan on the stove top for 5 minutes and allow to air dry – for more information see Resources
Once the rhubarb syrup is strained and cooled add the vinegar and light muscovado sugar and stir to combine
Decant into a sterilised jar and store in the fridge
Honey Rhubarb Silver Sour: Add leatherwood honey syrup, jammy rhubarb shrub syrup, real free range organic egg white, mead, 40 spotted oaked gin and a handful of ice cubes to a mixing tin
Seal the tin and shake for 30 seconds
Strain the ice out by straining into the other side of the mixing tin and discard the ice
Reverse dry shake by sealing the tins and shaking for an additional 30 seconds without ice
Strain the drink into a prepared coupe
Garnish with drops of Angostura bitters, using a metal straw to pick up the bitters from a small dish with your thumb on the end of the straw, release the drop by removing your thumb, tease out a pretty design with a toothpick; add an edible nasturtium leaf with a drop of water – add the drop of water with an eye dropper
Michael Dietsch (2016). Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, Second Edition. Countryman Press: New York.
Dave Arnold (2014). Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail. W.W. Norton & Company: New York & London.
Patsy McDonough (1883). McDonough’s Bar-Keeper’s Guide and Gentleman’s Side-Board Companion. Post-Express Print: New York.
Tristan Stephenson (2016). The Curious Bartender: The artistry and alchemy of creating the perfect cocktail. Ryland, Peters & Small: London & New York.
Jerry Thomas (1862, 2018 reprint). The Bar-tender’s Guide: Bon-vivant’s companion. Dick & Fitzgerald: New York, reprint by Thomas Majhen.
Jerry Thomas (1887, 2016 reprint). Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tender’s Guide: How to mix all kinds of plain and fancy drinks. Dick & Fitzgerald: New York, reprint by Dover Publications: New York.
David Wondrich (2015). Imbibe. Perigree: New York.
Tasmanian leatherwood honey
Honey Tasmania (2020). Tasmania's unique environment. In Honey Tasmania.
Honey Tasmania (2020). Honey varieties. In Honey Tasmania.
Manika Dadson (2019). Tasmanian honey industry in crisis as bees starve to death. In ABC News.