I’ve found that taking a cocktail approach to non-alcoholic drinks — using a cocktail shaker, muddling, using simple syrup or agave syrup — helps me get beyond mere lemonade in the summer months. Most importantly, it’s enabled me to experiment in small quantities.
I’ve muddled jalapeños and ginger (sometimes both together) and I’ve used ice-filled cocktail shakers to puree muddled fruit for berry lemonades. I’ve also mixed fresh-squeezed orange juice with a little vanilla for a homemade Orange Julius flavor.
Last weekend, I bought a pound of rhubarb stalks at the farmers’ market and didn’t really know what to do with them. Remembering a rhubarb cocktail recipe in Kara Newman’s Spice & Ice that calls for pureed rhubarb, I chopped three stalks and put them in the blender. Per Kara’s directions, I strained the resulting puree through cheesecloth, squeezing the juice out of the fibery pulp (which, once wrung dry, looks just like a hairball vomited up by a cat).
But what to do with the rhubarb juice? I tried a 1:1:1 mixture of rhubarb, lemon juice, and simple syrup. I stirred it in a glass, added some ice, and topped it off with club soda. It’s perfect. The earthiness of the rhubarb is mitigated by the sugar and lemon, making it subtle — not too sweet, not too sour. It’s a very refreshing and mellow substitute for lemonade.