Saturday, June 2, 2012

Do you now Tom Collins? Well, he knows you!

rhubarb tom collins
Rhubarb gives this summery cocktail a jolt of sweet-tart flavor. (Photo: Ian Knauer)

Do you know Tom Collins? No? Well, he’s at the bar just around the corner and he’s talking about you!

Tell me, dear reader, is this the sort of notion that inspires to you walk—nay run—to the bar around the corner and look for this Tom Collins character who is reportedly smearing your good name? Well, in 1847 it just might have infuriated you into action. The Great Tom Collins Hoax was all the rage. It was a joke played on unsuspecting passers-by to see just how much you could rile up a complete stranger. To be honest, I don’t really get it.

What I do get is the entrepreneurial whimsy of bartenders going all the way back to the first famous man, Jerry Thomas, who wrote the first recipe for a Tom Collins. If you’d happen to run into Jerry’s bar demanding to see Tom Collins, your wish would be granted. Mr. Thomas would hand you a glass of gin-spiked lemonade and a bar tab. Way to go, you insecure, narcissistic sucker.

Back to sustainability. We are right on the cusp of spring and summer. The weather screams for cooling cocktails, but nature hasn’t quite caught up with herself this year. Food-wise, we’re still in spring, and that means we are not in lemon season, but we are in rhubarb season. And that’s good news, because rhubarb (like lemon) is very acidic and lends itself perfectly to a Tom Collins. It’s just the sort of tipple that you’ll want to get tricked into drinking.

Rhubarb Tom Collins
1 pound rhubarb
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
Sparkling water

Cut rhubarb into 1/2 -inch pieces, then bring to a boil with water, sugar, and salt. Let mixture boil 1 minute, then remove from heat and let steep for 1 hour. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding rhubarb.

To make a Rhubarb Tom Collins, fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Add 3 tablespoons gin, 2-3 tablespoons rhubarb syrup, then top with sparkling water. Stir before serving.