Rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail is a pickle twist on Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Gin Fix where sugar, lemon and water are swapped out for agave syrup and rhubarb shrub syrup spiced with lemon and cinnamon myrtle and strawberry gum for flavours of zesty lemon, sweet cinnamon and delicate strawberry. The rhubarb shrub is sweetened with low GI cane sugar for a lower GI alternative with the flavour of cane sugar that retains the beautiful pink-red colour of the rhubarb. Light coconut vinegar preserves the myrtle and strawberry gum flavoured rhubarb for a more delicate sweet-sour shrub syrup that is wonderful in refreshing drinks with soda water and in cocktails and desserts. The rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail is a refreshing sour cocktail with a delicate and fresh rhubarb flavour enhanced by Australian indigenous spices paired with a Dry style gin for a big fresh juniper flavour, served over a mountain of crushed ice and garnished with a rhubarb and orange twist.
What is a Gin Fix or Fix-Up? Ingredients, origins, related drinks: Punch, Sour, Daisy
A Fix or Fix-Up is an old fashioned sour style pick me up cocktail dating from 1856 that is closely related to earlier recipes for Punch, although missing the spice element, it does include sweet, sour, strong and weak, with sugar, lemon juice, spirit and sugar (Wondrich 2015: 113). The Fix or Fix-Up is one of my favourite Jerry Thomas cocktails appearing in the 1862 version of his Bar-tender’s Guide – I love the Fix because the formula for the recipe is truly simple and elegant and has a fancy and refreshing presentation being served over ‘shaved ice’ with a fancy seasonal garnish (Thomas 1862: 179). I have made a raspberry lime shrub gin fix and a pineapple shrub gin fix and I would love to revive all things Fix as this recipe is so delicious in large part because of the elegant sour formula and the ice. The first recipes for Fixes could be made with brandy and Santa Cruz rum as well as gin (Thomas 1862: 178-9). The Fix is very similar to a Sour but in a Sour the shaved ice is not used for serving. The fancy garnishes of the Fix are like those of later longer style and fancier Sour Daisy cocktails and David Wondrich (2015: 113) in Imbibe points out that these fancy fix garnishes are also like some earlier Punch garnishes. Later variations of the Fix, such as those appearing in the 1887 version of Thomas’ Bar-tender’s Guide, became more complex, with the addition of raspberry and pineapple syrup, curacao and the introduction of a whiskey version of the Fix (Thomas 1887: 780-798). For more on the evolution of the Fix recipe see my post on Pineapple pickle fix cocktail.
David Wondrich in Imbibe (2015: 112) helpfully refers to these sour style drinks such as Fixes, Sours, and Daisy’s as ‘the children of punch’ as they follow the Punch formula of sour, strong, sweet, weak (although the spice element is missing). Gary Regan (2018: 2742, 2750) in his The Joy of Mixology places the Fix in the ‘family umbrella’ of ‘Simple Sours’ containing: a spirit, citrus and a sweetener such as, sugar syrup, pineapple juice, orgeat or grenadine syrup (there are many more styles of sours including New Orleans, International, Enhanced – see Regan 2018 for more detail).
How do you make a Gin Fix? Build in the glass & stir
Jerry Thomas (1862: 179) in his Bar-tender’s Guide writes that the method for making the Gin Fix is to build in a ‘small bar glass’ with ‘shaved ice’ and stir:
“Fill two-thirds full of shaved ice. Stir with a spoon, and ornament the top with fruits in season.”
What is a shrub syrup?
A shrub syrup drinking vinegar is an old fashioned recipe for preserving in season fruits or vegetables with vinegar, flavoured with sugar, herbs and spices. The traditional recipe for shrub syrup uses a ratio of 1:1:1 – one part fruit or vegetable to one part vinegar to one part sugar. In this modern interpretation I retain the vinegar for preservation but reduce the sugar using this as a flavouring that is enhanced by sweet spices. I have also chosen to use a low GI cane sugar for a lower GI drink that retains the cane flavour and allows the colour of the rhubarb to shine.
How do you make a shrub syrup?
There are different methods for making shrub syrups (see Davis 2017; Dietsch 2016; Katz 2012: 177) including:
- Heat process: ingredients heated with sugar/sweetener, strained, cooled, vinegar added, hot water bath to further extend shelf life if desired
- Cold process: cold maceration of ingredients with sugar/sweetener, strained, vinegar added
- Raw process: ingredients fermented directly with vinegar and sugar/sweetener, strained
The choice of method creates different flavours, consistency and colour of syrup and is, best selected in relation to the qualities of different types of ingredients, the lead time you have for making your shrub and the desired product consistency and shelf life. To unpack these considerations, I provide some examples below so you can see how the choice of method determines the nature of the final syrup.
Heat process – Quick Turnaround, jammy flavour, thicker, darker syrup, further heat process to extend shelf life – The heated method of infusion has the advantage of a quick turnaround time, as in these Strawberry and basil shrub and Tomato and peach shrub recipes from Cornersmith. The resulting syrup will have a jammier flavour and thicker consistency (Dietsch 2016: 1373). In addition, Cornersmith in their Tomato and peach shrub recipe explain how heating a completed heat process shrub syrup in a hot water bath can further extend the shelf life of the syrup for up to a year from 2 weeks – so heat has an advantage as a further method of preservation.
Cold process slow maceration – bright flavour, thinner syrup, lighter colour, vinegar added after maceration – Some ingredients such as rhubarb benefit from a long slow cold maceration with sugar as this releases a ‘brighter’ and more intense ‘fresher’ flavour from the base ingredient into a syrup which is then strained and to which vinegar is added such as the cold process Rhubarb shrub recipe in Michael Dietsch’s amazing book Shrubs (Dietsch 2017: 1370). If using a heat process for rhubarb the resulting syrup will have more of the qualities of cooked rhubarb being jammier and thicker than the cold process version (Dietsch 2017: 1370). Holly Davis (2017: 1070) prefers this cooked rhubarb flavour in her Ginger rhubarb shrub appearing in Ferment.
Raw method – cold process direct fermentation, bright flavour – Mandarins are easily made into a cold process fermented or Raw mandarin shrub syrup where the fruit and zest are directly added to vinegar with sugar, infused, and then strained to produce a syrup by Holly Davis in her wonderful book Ferment (Davis 2017: 1708).
Rhubarb shrub syrup using cold process slow maceration for brighter rhubarb flavour and lighter colour – The rhubarb shrub syrup for this rhubarb gin fix cocktail is made by a process of slow cold maceration following the method outlined by Michael Dietsch (2016) in his amazing book Shrubs. The washed and cut rhubarb pieces are infused overnight, or for up to 2 days, with low GI cane sugar and a complex Australian indigenous spice mix including lemon and cinnamon myrtle and strawberry gum. The resulting syrup is then strained to remove the rhubarb pieces and spices and a light style coconut vinegar is added for preservation. The resulting shrub syrup is then stored in the fridge. The flavour pairing with Australian indigenous spices, use of a low GI cane sugar for big cane taste but a neutral colour and use of a lighter style sweet and sour coconut vinegar are my own contribution.
Tip – Weigh rhubarb stalks: Weigh your rhubarb with a kitchen scale for more accurate measurements – 454 grams is approximately one large bunch of rhubarb stalks.
Tip – Discard poisonous rhubarb leaves: Do not use the rhubarb leaves as these are poisonous – remove from the stalks and feed to your worms or compost.
Tip – reserve leftover macerated rhubarb for compote & desserts: The strained rhubarb and spices should be reserved for another use – they are amazing as a simple compote with a small amount of water added – and so delicious served with ice cream or as the base for a parfait.
How can you use a shrub syrup in cocktails, refreshing drinks, desserts?
Shrub syrups are a great way to add depth, complex flavour and sourness to cocktails, refreshing drinks and desserts – because of the infusion process and the use of vinegar and sugar the resulting syrup will have an intensified flavour compared to your raw ingredients.
Flavour pairing: fruit, vegetable, herbs, spices, sweetener, vinegar – In cocktails it’s possible to add spice notes and herbal flavours along with fruit or vegetables paired with your choice of sweetener and vinegar. Careful pairing of these ingredients to enhance the characteristics of your base spirit will make a complex and truly delicious cocktail. In this recipe for a rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail I wanted to explore the pairing of rhubarb with juniper (for more on this see below).
Sourness, sweetness, complexity & depth of flavour – The shrub syrup can be used in place of citrus juice and sugar syrup in sour cocktail recipes to add sourness and sweetness – depending on the acidity of the vinegar used and the ratio of sugar added an additional sugar syrup or other sweetener may be needed to balance the cocktail. Shrubs have the advantage of adding further complexity and depth of flavour than that available through using citrus juice and sugar syrup alone – there is potential for creating unique and delicious flavour combinations preserved and intensified in a vinegar based syrup.
Versatile – use in refreshing drinks, cocktails, desserts – Shrub syrups offer a versatile flavour base for use in refreshing drinks, cocktails and desserts. I have made shrub syrups with fruits and vegetables for use in refreshing drinks such as my pineapple fennel shrub syrup – this syrup makes wonderful refreshing drinks when served with ice and soda water and delicious margaritas when paired with tequila. Shrubs can be used as dessert syrups added to fresh fruit or ice cream and the leftovers from making shrubs make amazing flavour bases for ice cream or nice cream such as my raspberry nice cream and raspberry shrub syrup which is also delicious in a raspberry gin fix cocktail.
How is the rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail different?
The rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail offers a refreshing short style sour cocktail served over shaved ice with a fancy rhubarb ribbon and orange twist garnish for a celebration of in season spring rhubarb paired with the fresh crisp juniper flavour of a Dry style gin and complex spice from lemon and cinnamon myrtle and strawberry gum. The rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail enhances the fresh crispness of juniper from the gin with tart rhubarb paired with lemon and cinnamon myrtle and strawberry gum, sweetened with low GI cane sugar, preserved with coconut vinegar, balanced with a little agave syrup. The use of shaved ice in this cocktail enhances the refreshing qualities of the shrub syrup and the freshness of juniper in the gin.
Rhubarb – Rhubarb has a unique tart and sweet flavour and has been called the queen of vegetables – it also has the most amazing pink-red colour and is also green in part before cooking or macerating. In this rhubarb shrub syrup the rhubarb colour comes through as a very light delicate pink. It’s peak rhubarb season here right now with enormous lush tall bunches of rhubarb appearing in the farmers’ markets and green grocers. The rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail offers a celebration of spring rhubarb season.
Complex spice: lemon & cinnamon myrtle, strawberry gum – The rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail is a complex sour cocktail that plays with reintroducing the element of spice into the Fix cocktail recipe while retaining the elegant and simple proportions of Jerry Thomas’ original 1862 recipe. The souring, sweetening and weak elements – sugar, water, lemon juice – are swapped out for a sweet and sour spiced rhubarb shrub syrup and a little agave syrup. The element of spice is added back into the rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail, calling back to origins in the Punch formula – with the addition of a complex Australian indigenous spice mix to pair with the tartness of rhubarb and the freshness of juniper in the dry style gin. Lemon myrtle adds a fresh lemon zest flavour, cinnamon myrtle adds a delicate tea like cinnamon flavour and strawberry gum contributes a unique perfume and aroma of strawberries that is somehow more delicate than strawberries and really makes the tartness of the rhubarb sing.
Juniper & Rhubarb – In this rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail I wanted to explore the pairing of rhubarb with juniper which I first read about in Niki Segnit’s amazing book The Flavour Thesaurus. To emphasise the juniper flavour in this cocktail I chose local Sydney Archie Rose Dry Gin with a strong juniper character – fresh, woodsy, clean, crisp – which pairs wonderfully with the tartness of fresh in season rhubarb. This Dry Gin also features Australian indigenous botanicals including blood lime and lemon myrtle. For more about the flavour profiles of styles of gin see my post on making a vintage style Dry Martini with homemade cold infused gin.
Crushed or shaved ice – Shrub syrups have a refreshing quality due to the acidity of the vinegar they use as a preserving agent – this refreshing effect is magnified when they are served with shaved ice. This freshness is also present in the strong juniper note of the gin which works so well with the tartness of rhubarb. The shaved ice of the Fix seems to perfect medium to explore this freshness and crispness of rhubarb and juniper enhanced by zingy lemon myrtle, warm delicate spice of cinnamon myrtle and sweetness and ambrosial aroma of strawberry gum held in suspension by a light sweet sour coconut vinegar. The shaved ice of the Fix also plays on the very roots of the shrub as a sherbet etymologically related to the Arabic word sharab or drink.
How to make a rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail – Stir & strain – I have adopted a stir and strain method for making this rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail – staying true to the original recipe I have stirred this drink. However, rather than building in the glass and stirring I have used a mixing glass with ice to which all the ingredients are added – rhubarb shrub, agave syrup, dry gin – stirred and then poured over a mountain of shaved ice in a prepared short fancy vintage footed glass. This method of stirring and straining into a prepared glass allows for more control of the presentation of the final drink and the fancy garnish. A cap of additional shaved ice can be added once the drink is poured, on which to present the garnish of a twist of orange and rhubarb. The rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail recipe is inspired by Jerry Thomas’ 1862 recipe for a Gin Fix (Thomas 1862: 177-8) and uses the same ratio of 2 shots gin to just over 1 shot water/lemon/sugar or in this case shrub syrup/agave syrup, although I have taken some license in adjusting the recipe for a shorter welcome style drink using 1 shot of gin to ½ a shot of shrub, balanced with 1 bar spoon of agave syrup.
Styling the rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail: vintage cut glass, rhubarb ribbon and orange twist garnish – I have served the rhubarb gin fix cocktail in a short fancy vintage cut glass footed glass – while a step up from the small bar glass called for in the original recipe by Jerry Thomas (1862) this glassware seems appropriate for the fanciness of the fix garnish and styling with crushed ice. It also has the advantage of allowing the ice to be piled up into a beautiful mountain on which the orange twist can rest. The orange twist pairs well with rhubarb adding sweet orange oil to the top of the drink along with a rhubarb twist that is visually beautiful red-pink spiralling over the side of the glass adding tart rhubarb aroma and instantly connecting the imbiber with the seasonal spring rhubarb which is the feature of this rhubarb shrub shrub gin fix cocktail.
Rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail: Fix-UpPrint Recipe
- Rhubarb shrub syrup: 454 grams washed rhubarb (leaves and ends removed) (weighed with a kitchen scale – approximately 1 large bunch of rhubarb stalks)
- ¾ cup low GI cane sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon myrtle
- ½ teaspoon strawberry gum
- ¼ teaspoon lemon myrtle, ground
- ½ cup coconut vinegar
- Rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail: ½ shot rhubarb shrub syrup
- 1 bar spoon agave syrup
- 1 shot Dry Gin, Archie Rose used here
- Crushed Ice
- Glassware: Fancy vintage footed glass
- Garnish: Orange twist, Rhubarb twist
Rhubarb shrub syrup: Remove rhubarb leaves and hard ends of stems (the leaves are poisonous but great food for worms or compost)
Wash rhubarb thoroughly
Cut into lengths that will fit on your kitchen scale and weigh
Slice rhubarb into thin sections
Add rhubarb, spices and sugar to a non-reactive container such as a clean preserving jar
Mix or shake to evenly distribute sugar and spices throughout
Leave to macerate in the fridge overnight or for up to 2 days – more intense flavours will develop over time
Meanwhile, sterilise your jar by washing in hot soapy water and rinsing well, place the jar on 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 stovetop for 5 minutes and allow to air dry – for more information see Resources
Remove from the fridge and strain the rhubarb pieces and spices off using a fine mesh sieve – reserve these for another use such as in compote or desserts
Combine the resulting rhubarb syrup with the coconut vinegar and store in a sterilised jar in the fridge
Rhubarb shrub gin fix cocktail: Make a rhubarb twist, use a vegetable peeler to peel off an outer section of a rhubarb stalk, cut off any uneven ends, roll this up into a tight spiral and weight with a butter knife or hold by piercing through the spiral with a toothpick (note that this toothpick method while effective leaves a small hole), leave to settle while you are preparing the drink
Crush your ice and prepare your glass, at home you can crush ice by adding it to a clean tea towel and banging it with a rolling pin, use an ice spoon to add to your glass
Add rhubarb shrub syrup, agave syrup and dry gin to a mixing glass filled with ice and stir with a long handled bar spoon until well combined and very cold
Strain into prepared glass
Add a small cap of crushed ice
Gently bend a section of orange peel over the glass and pass it around the rim of the glass before twisting and then sitting on top of the crushed ice cap
Untwist your rhubarb twist and gently add one end to the drink weighted by the ice to hold it in place
Cornersmith (2019). Tomato and peach shrub. In Cornersmith blog.
Holly Davis (2017). Ferment: A guide to the art of making ancient cultured goods. Murdoch Books: Crows Nest, Sydney.
Michael Dietsch (2016). Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, Second Edition. Countryman Press: New York.
Jaimee Edwards (2018). Strawberry and basil shrub. In Cornersmith blog.
Sandor Katz (2012). The Art of Fermentation. Chelsea Green Publishing: Vermont.
Niki Segnit (2010). The Flavour Thesaurus. Bloomsbury: London.
Gary Regan (2018). Joy of Mixology: The consummate guide to the bartender’s craft. Revised Edition. Clarkson Potter: 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.