Spring in Portland is something else. In California, it meant asparagus and strawberries and a few cherry blossoms. It meant longer days. It felt promising. But the shift was subtle, and it always left me wanting a little more. In the northwest, the transition to spring feels life-affirming. It offers a break from the relentless grey, a little levity from the soggy darkness of a northwest winter. But the greatest gift of spring in Portland is the insane riot of flowers, emerging in succession from March all the way through to June. It is almost enough to justify the winter.
Every day I go for a walk, regardless of the weather. And the blooms have been phenomenal: first the crocus, then the exquisite camellias and magnificent magnolias, among the first to color the streets. In tandem are the fruit blossoms: the cherry trees and plum, the quince and apple, the funny-smelling pear varietal; the forsythia, and tulips, and daffodils. Next the rhododendron and the glorious, exquisite dogwood. And those assorted weeds – wild mustards, mostly – that still breathe life and color into the sodden landscape. The fragrance of blooms, even when they’re in their final hurrah and smelling a little ripe, is invigorating. Those moments when the sun breaks and I am awash in a shimmering cascade of the most delicate white cherry or apple or plum blossoms are straight out of a fairy tale.
And with all this color and levity, and the sun setting after 8 pm now, people come back to life. Everyone is going out more, emerging from the winter hibernation that seems to be a part of Portland’s fabric. This, too, is invigorating. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, moving away from my community has been the greatest and hardest lesson in the value of people in our lives. So I am having new friends over. Smaller, intimate groups. Easy brunches. An ice cream social. Some silly experiments with gluten-free pizza. The perfectionist in me plans these out to the last detail; but I remind myself that it’s about the people, not a perfect living space. And my perfection backfires on me every time because I inevitably underestimate the amount of time involved in planning, and my friends inevitably help with the cooking that I have not finished by the time they arrive. It’s actually more fun this way.
Rosy Rhubarb Mule
I love the way that people who like rhubarb don’t just casually like it but obsessively love it. It is one of the most beautifully weird plants out there, a strange, vibrant, leafy stalk that is not a fruit at all but hardly used in savory contexts. For this drink – a more dynamic twist on the classic Moscow Mule – I made the rhubarb syrup concentrated, with much less sugar than is usually called for, to let more of its tartness shine. Hangar One’s new Rosé Vodka has a whisper of sweetness to it, and with the ginger beer, I wanted the sweet and the tart to be balanced. With spring’s arrival I am committed to more celebrations. And trying to keep them simple. This delightfully-hued drink is both celebratory and simple. Cheers!
Rosy Rhubarb Mule
For the rhubarb syrup:
3 cups super red rhubarb (deeply red rhubarb is essential to produce that gorgeous magenta color)
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
For each cocktail:
2 ounces rhubarb syrup
2 ounces chilled Hangar One Rosé Vodka
2 ounces strong ginger beer
1/2 lime, juiced
1 mint leaf, garnish
Make ahead: In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb with the water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer, covered, until the rhubarb has softened and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Strain using a mesh sieve (or a nut milk bag, in a pinch!). Chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
Add a handful of ice to the cocktail shaker. Add two ounces of the rhubarb syrup, two ounces chilled Hangar One Rosé Vodka, two ounces ginger beer, and the lime juice. Shake vigorously and strain into a coupe or lowball glass. Garnish with a mint leaf and enjoy!
This post was created in partnership with Hangar One Vodka. All content is created by Kimberley Hasselbrink. Partnerships like this sustain me as a small business.