One recent early June evening, I sipped on a lively red cocktail at Little Giant, a restaurant on the Lower East Side in New York City. More acidic than sweet, their Strawberry Rhubarb Smash has bourbon and lemon juice like a whiskey sour, but is brightened with rhubarb simple syrup.
A few days after my dinner there, I decided to make the drink myself. I cut rhubarb stalks into small pieces and simmered them in water along with seeds of half a vanilla bean. (Tasha Garcia Gibson, who co-owns Little Giant with Julie Taras Wallach, says the pulpy rhubarb mass that's leftover after the syrup is drained is great on yogurt with granola or Grape-Nuts.) I mixed the syrup with bourbon, muddled strawberries, lemon and mint. It was like holding spring in a glass, with the whole summer ahead of me to look forward to.