Soft drink, soda, pop: Whatever you call them, these beverages are having a moment. At Neal Brown's The Libertine Liquor Bar in Indianapolis, Indiana, chef de cuisine Erin Till created this uniquely spiced rhubarb soda. She cooks the ruby red stalks with a sweet-savory mix of cardamom pods, celery seeds and peppercorns to give the juice extra earthy complexity. After straining the solids, she combines the bright pink syrup with sparkling water for a fizzy faux-cocktail designed for even the most serious drinkers. Plus, the byproduct is an intensely flavored compote that Till ingeniously serves as an appetizer alongside slices of fried bacon. The smart move begs the question: Would you like a soda with that?
Spiced Rhubarb Soda
Recipe from Erin Till, The Libertine, Indianapolis, IN
Yield: Makes 4 sodas
Cook Time: 20 minutes
2½ pounds rhubarb, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 medium lime, zested and juiced
10 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tablespoon whole celery seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Small pinch kosher salt
24 ounces soda water, chilled
Celery leaves, optional
Fresh mint, optional
1. In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the rhubarb, sugar, water, lime zest and juice, cardamom, celery seeds, peppercorns and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low. Simmer until rhubarb is very soft and smashes against the side of the pan easily, about 15 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Place the syrup in the fridge to chill completely (reserve the cooked rhubarb to serve with bacon or to use as a tart filling).
2. In a pitcher, stir the syrup with the soda water. Fill four glasses with ice and divide the rhubarb soda among the glasses. Garnish with celery leaves and a sprig of mint, if using.
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