I’ve never been much of a drinker. In fact, before my recent trip to Mexico, I could count the number of margaritas I’ve consumed in my life on one hand.

Well, clearly I have a lot of catching up to do, because this weekend I discovered that I don’t just like margaritas. I ADORE them. So when I got home, I got to thinking about what kind of margarita I could make to celebrate springtime, and here’s what I came up with.

The base of this cocktail is a rhubarb-lemon balm syrup that I adapted from a recipe in Alana’s book: The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making*. I love how it’s not quite as sweet as a traditional simple syrup…plus it’s a ridiculous pretty shade of pink! Alana’s recipe also had fresh ginger in it, and I’m sure that would be an awesome addition. Other herbs instead of lemon balm would work, too: fresh ones like mint or maybe basil, or how about simmering the syrup with cinnamon sticks or a few cardamon pods?

Note that while I am sharing how I used the syrup in a cocktail (because you might want to make it for a Cinco De Mayo celebration, yes?!), it’s also terrific when used the way Alana intended: mixed with sparkling water to make a homemade soda.

So here’s the recipe for the syrup and the margarita, followed by some more of my favorite photos from my trip to Sayulita, Mexico. FYI the birds in the photos are called Blue Footed Boobies (they really do have blue feet, and the white fuzzy babies were SO adorable), and there are some shots of my cousin’s beautiful wedding, as well.

Recipe for Rhubarb Lemon Balm Syrup and Margarita

Yield: About 2 1/2 cups of syrup + 5 margaritas.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

I considered sweetening the syrup with something other than white sugar (I was thinking about using either maple syrup or honey), but in the end went with the sugar as I wanted the syrup to stay very pink. I was out of organic sugar (horrors!), but it would probably work out fine with that. Note that you must use a pink variety of rhubarb (some rhubarb has a brown/green hue) for the syrup to end up pink. This should be enough syrup to make about 5 standard margaritas.

Ingredients:

For the syrup:

*1 pound rhubarb, ends trimmed off and cut into chunks (about 5 large stalks)
*4 cups water
*1/2 cup sugar
*Packed handful of fresh lemon balm leaves (I've got tons in my herb garden; feel free to use another herb, like mint, if you don't have access to lemon balm)

For the margarita:

*Ice- cubes or crushed
*Coarse sea salt
*Rhubarb lemon balm syrup (recipe above)
*Tequila
*Triple sec
*Fresh lime(s), sliced

Directions:

For the syrup:

1. Combine rhubarb and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until rhubarb is very "mushy". Remove from heat and strain out the rhubarb (don't discard: add your favorite natural sweetener and enjoy the rhubarb alone, or use it anywhere you'd use jam or a fruit sauce).

2. Return the strained liquid to the pot and add the sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved, then toss in the lemon balm leaves. Turn heat down just slightly and cook for another 7-10 minutes, until the syrup reduces and thickens a bit. Strain out the lemon balm and allow the syrup to cool completely before using in the margarita, or mix with sparkling water for a healthier alternative to soda. Leftover syrup should last for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

For the margarita:

1. Pour salt into a shallow dish. Run a lime slice around the rim of your glass, then invert the glass and dip in the salt.

2. Fill glass with ice cubes or crushed ice, then pour in some rhubarb syrup (I filled my glass half way with the syrup). Splash in some Tequila and triple sec, then squeeze in some fresh lime (and drop the spent lime slice(s) into the glass). Stir and taste, then add more syrup and/or more alcohol (and/or more lime juice) as to your preference. Garnish with lemon balm or mint leaves, if you like.

More Cocktails Featuring Rhubarb:
Rhubarb Margarita from What’s Gaby Cooking
Rhubarbarita from The Splendid Table
Rhubarb Mojito from Not Without Salt
Rhubarb Basil Cocktail from The Kitchn
Lemon Rhubarb Martini from Lighter and Local

* Disclosure: I receive a small percentage of the sale when you buy something at Amazon.com using a link on my blog; please know that I only link to books and other items that I use and love.