Lemon, lime and rhubarb bitters offers a tart rhubarb twist on the classic Australian drink, where Angostura bitters are replaced with rhubarb cacao bitters with wattleseed. Lemon, lime and bitters contains small amounts of alcohol from the bitters but is considered a non-alcoholic drink. Lemon, lime and bitters has a fascinating history in Australia being related to cures for sea sickness and later car sickness according to Kit Kriewaldt (2018) writing for ABC News in the article, The curious origins of the lemon, lime and bitters, Australia’s national drink. This medicinal theme resonates with the broader history of bitters as a cure all, as Brad Thomas Parsons (2011: 211, 293-4) in his book Bitters details bitters have been used as medicinal products exclusively and then in cure all mixtures containing alcohol such as brandy as a remedy for all manner of ailments, forming the precursors of the cocktail. Here is a brief summary of some drinks recipes using bitters both alcoholic and non-alcoholic that formed the antecedents of the classic lemon, lime and bitters recipe:
- Pink gin – consisting of Angostura bitters mixed with gin by sailors, as a cure for sea sickness
- Campbell – non-alcoholic version of pink gin made with lemonade and Angostura bitters in the 1880’s
- Lemon, lime and bitters – importantly lime is added to recipes – lemonade, lime cordial or fresh lime, and Angostura bitters – in the early 20th Century was ‘ commonplace’ according to Kriewaldt (2018) and used as a car sickness remedy
The classic lemon, lime and bitters recipe includes lemonade, lime cordial or fresh lime and Angostura bitters. My lemon, lime and rhubarb bitters recipe uses fresh lemons and limes, homemade rhubarb cacao bitters with wattleseed and fizzy water, garnished with a rhubarb twist. It’s a lower sugar, tart and very refreshing summer drink. The rhubarb lends a piquant tartness that is overlaid with orange, chocolate and Australian indigenous spices including wattleseed, cinnamon myrtle and lemon myrtle. The base spirit is a local Sydney made vodka produced by Archie Rose, although the amount of alcohol in this mixed drink is very small. In researching this post I have come across Brad Thomas Parsons (2011: 247) recipe for Bitters and soda which simply includes soda water and bitters as a pick me up. My twist on the classic Australian lemon, lime and bitters works in a similar way to simplify the recipe letting the flavours of the rhubarb bitters really shine.
The lemon, lime and rhubarb bitters recipe is easy and simple to make but requires some preparation – you will need to make yourself some rhubarb cacao bitters with wattleseed first. Making homemade bitters is a simple process but does take some time – it is well worth the wait though as you can achieve amazing and complex flavours for use in pickle cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Making bitters is a form of preserving and a great way to get in touch with the seasons and their unique fresh produce.
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Lemon, lime, & rhubarb bitters: tart twist on an Australian classicPrint Recipe
- 4 dashes rhubarb cacao bitters with wattleseed
- 1 lime wheel
- 1 lemon wheel
- Fizzy water
- Lime or lemon wheel and rhubarb twist - made from a strip of rhubarb cut with a vegetable peeler - to garnish
Load a tall tumbler glass with a lemon and lime wheel and pack with ice
Add the rhubarb cacao bitters with wattleseed
Garnish with a lemon or lime wheel and a rhubarb twist
Top with sparkling mineral or soda water
To make a rhubarb twist – peel a long thin strip of rhubarb from the outside of the stem and twist this into a tight spiral, weight with the end of a butter knife onto a chopping board for five minutes, untwist when ready to use. The rhubarb will retain the spiral spring shape.
~History of lemon, lime and bitters~
Kriewaldt, Kit (2018). The curious origins of the lemon, lime and bitters, Australia’s national drink. In ABC News.
Brad Thomas Parsons (2014). Pink gin: Created and forgotten at sea. In Punch.
Bard Thomas Parsons (2011). Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas Ten Speed Press: Berkeley.
~Other recipes for lemon, lime and bitters~Simon Difford (2019). Lemon, lime & bitters (non-alcoholic) In Difford’s Guide.
Lemon, lime & bitters In Taste.