The annual springtime anticipation of the first rhubarb, such a tradition in the more temperate zones, isn't really a thing here in Florida. Maybe that's because rhubarb doesn't do particularly well in Florida's climate, or because spring itself isn't much of a thing here, going as we do from slightly cool temps to full-on hellmouth.
So traditional delicate spring cocktails aren't really a thing here either. We jump right into the strong, tangy margaritas and Mai Tais – and lemonade.
A Tom Collins is really just a boozy, fizzy lemonade: gin, lemon juice, sugar to sweeten and soda water to make it bubble. Served in a tall glass over ice cubes with a straw, it's an efficient and potent summer cooler.
I wanted to split the difference between that tart strength and an easier, springier ... pinker drink. But since I wasn't seeing rhubarb in the local markets, I had to find a way to my own version.
I started by swapping gin for Lillet Rosé, a French fortified wine apéritif that's just a bit stronger and more concentrated than your favorite summer rosé. I added Cocchi for a bit more punch, then topped with Trader Joe's Rhubarb & Strawberry soda – hence no need for added sugar – then Fee brothers' heavenly rhubarb bitters for complexity. (If you're not a TJ's fan for whatever reason, you can substitute a strawberry or blood orange soda – but it won't be quite the same.) I garnished with a fresh strawberry and then, just for contrariness' sake, served it in a short glass with one big lump of ice rather than the customary Collins glass.
What can I say? Spring makes us all unpredictable.
2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces carbonated water
Add gin, lemon juice and sugar to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly and pour into a Collins glass filled with small ice cubes. Top with club soda and stir. Serve with straw.
2 1/2 ounces Lillet Rosé
1/2 ounce Cocchi Americano
4 ounces rhubarb soda
6 dashes Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters
strawberry for garnish
Pour Lillet, Cocchi and soda into whatever damn glass you feel like, over whatever kind of ice you want. Stir, shake on bitters to taste and garnish with strawberry.