Some cocktails we’ve been sipping on this summer: Franny’s Rhubarb Bridge and Alton Brown’s Bitter-Day Martini

Alton Brown’s Bitter-Day Martini

My interest in cocktails waxes and wanes: sometimes I’d rather drink something that barely qualifies as one like a kir, and other times I’ll happily pull a bunch of bottles off the shelf and mix together something elaborate and interesting. Often I’ll kind of go to the beat of my own drum, but lately I’ve been enjoying finding drinks in cookbooks and giving them a try. Inevitably these usually have me either buying ingredients I usually don’t dabble with—including more obscure liquors—but if I’m lucky, I’ll find myself making these drinks again and again.

Franny’s Rhubarb Bridge

I never was able to make it to Franny’s before it closed last year, but I’ve been a huge fan of their cookbook for many years regardless. One of the most interesting sections of the book is the one devoted to restaurant’s cocktails, because unlike many restaurant cookbooks, there is a substantial selection of drinks from which to choose. I’ve tried a few here and there, but none have captured my attention quite so much as their Rhubarb Bridge: a drink both sweet and tart and all-too-easily quaffable.

The key here is making rhubarb juice, which you do by adding chunks of rhubarb to a blender and pureeing it (I’ll add a little water to help it move along), and then squeezing out the pulp into a bowl. The liquid is then left to sit in the fridge for at least six hours, and the bright red juice rises to the top while the green sediment falls to the bottom, and it is that red juice that you want to use. It’s not difficult to make, but it simply needs time to do what it needs to do, and your patience will be rewarded when you take that first sip.

As easy-drinking as the Rhubarb Bridge is, sometimes I find myself in the mood for something more contemplative and bracing, one that forces me to sip slowly because doing anything otherwise is a recipe for disaster. Alton Brown is a noted martini fan—even when he sought to lose some pounds, he still allowed himself a big martini once a week—and when he included a martini made with Fernet instead of vermouth in his book EveryDayCook, I was naturally extremely intrigued.

Amaros are starting to have a moment, it seems—they are popping up on more cocktail menus as our collective palates have matured and we want something that goes beyond simply sweet or sour. While those flavors will always be the most popular, it’s nice to see that bitterness is getting a moment too, because it can go a long way in waking your mouth up, so to speak.

There’s really not much to this drink, but note that even the half-ounce of Fernet will pack a wallop, so brace yourself for an intense first sip. It doesn’t really let up much after that, so plan on sipping the rest as you go. This makes it a pretty great drink to have while doing dinner prep, because ideally you don’t want to be downing cocktails while wielding a knife.

The Rhubarb Bridge

Lightly adapted from Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Cooking

Makes two drinks

  • 1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into small chunks
  • 4 oz gin
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz simple syrup

To make the rhubarb juice, puree the rhubarb chunks until smooth and pour it into a fine strainer or into cheesecloth over a bowl; gently squeeze the pulp to get all of the liquid out and then discard the pulp. Let the juice sit in the fridge for at least six hours to let the puree separate, and only keep the red juice while discarding the green sediment. (The juice will keep for three days.)

To make the drink, combine all of the other ingredients and 2 ounces of the rhubarb juice into a shaker filled ¾ with ice, cover, shake for about 30 seconds and then strain. Serve immediately, either with or without a grapefruit peel for garnish.

Bitter-Day Martini

Lightly adapted from EveryDayCook

  • 4 oz gin
  • 1 oz Fernet Branca

Combine both ingredients into a shaker filled ¾ with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, strain into glasses, and serve immediately, with or without a strip of grapefruit peel for garnish.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. That’s like the biggest blow about following cocktail recipes from books and stuff, because like you said if you don’t really really like it – you end up with a bunch of leftover stuff that you have no use for.
    But then on the other hand when you get it right, holy shit Elizabeth! I think I’m in LOVE with the first one, the Rhubarb Bridge!
    That sounds right up my alley, yeah. I wonder who among my friends has all the ingredients so I can try it…..

    1. elizabeth says:

      Just get some rhubarb and make it yourself–it’s totally worth the effort! And Aperol goes brilliantly with cava and prosecco for a nice spritz, so it’s not like you can’t use it again. 🙂

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