There is a Russian restaurant in Portland, Oregon that makes the most incredible infused vodka. It is both a very good and very bad thing. The flavours, which range from horseradish to sweet pea, are fresh and clean, and the vodka, which is served ice cold, comes in grams. These two factors, when combined, make it hard to judge exactly how much you’re drinking, particularly if you’ve never memorised the density of vodka (which is 970 kg/m³, by the way).
Then there are the seasonal flavours, which are made even more enticing by way of scarcity. This is especially true of the rhubarb, which tastes like alcoholic pie filling, except there’s no detectable ethanol burn. It will ruin your damn life if you let it. In what could be described as either an act of self-care or self-sabotage, I have figured out how to make rhubarb vodka at home, and it takes about 25 minutes. You both hate and love to see it.
It is no secret that I am a fan of a quick blender infusion. It’s an extremely efficient way to extract flavour, and I have used this method to make horseradish, Buddha’s hand citron and makrut lime leaf-flavored vodkas. All have been excellent – though the horseradish was a little painful – but this rhubarb is my favourite boozy child.
Like our other blender infusions, the process for making rhubarb vodka is almost as easy as falling off a log, and a lot less painful. Unlike our other infusions, this one has a good bit of sugar, because rhubarb, when left to its own devices, is overwhelmingly tart.
The exact amount of sugar you should add is up to you. If you love a sour sipper, add a quarter cup for every two cups of vodka. If you want a dessert liqueur, double it. If you’re in the mood for a drinkable Sour Patch Kid, go with a third of a cup. Even if you only use a quarter cup of sucrose, you’ll find that this stuff is as drinkable as juice, particularly once chilled. It is both the best and worst of times.
To make it, you will need:
1 very large stalk of rhubarb, chopped (poisonous leaves removed)
1/4-1/2 cup table sugar, depending on your palate
2 cups vodka
Put the chopped rhubarb and sugar in the blender and shake it around a bit to coat. Let it hang out for about 15 minutes to let the rhubarb soften and macerate. Add the vodka, and blend for about a minute.
Strain the vodka through a fine mesh sieve then chill in the freezer. If you’re concerned about particulates, you can run it through a coffee filter, but you shouldn’t have any spoilage issues if you keep it in the freezer, particularly when you consider that this stuff probably won’t last you the week.
You could put this vodka in a cocktail, but there is honestly no need. This is a sipping vodka, which means you can drink it chilled, straight from the freezer, in tiny little shot glasses, most likely at a dangerous rate. If you don’t want to wait for it to chill – and you probably won’t – you can use ice.