of Rhubarb and Anise Syrup

After dangling shorts-and-sunnies weather in front of our noses for a few glorious days last week, the sun packed up and headed for the Mediterranean. I’m wearing a sweater now, but I refuse to be jipped out of cool summer drinks!

This syrup is an ode to summer lovin’. Lovers gone by (*shakes fist at the sun*) and new lovers like rhubarb, whose pretty red stalks I’ve avoided in the past because it takes so much sugar to counter their acidic bite.

Inspired by Heidi Swanson’s rhubarb-rosewater syrup, my version is sweetened with honey and perfumed with star anise. A drizzle can trick out a flute of prosecco, make routine breakfast yoghurt feel downright fancy, and add an exotic tang to a tall, cool spritzer like the one below.


makes 1 medium-sized jar 


3 hefty stalks rhubarb

375 ml/1.5 cups water

5 star anise

Juice of 1 lemon

350 g/1 cup honey


Chop the rhubarb and set in a pan with the water, star anise, lemon juice, and honey. Cook over medium heat until the rhubarb falls apart (about 15 minutes). Strain the mixture, saving the rhubarb solids, and simmer the remaining liquid on low heat until it reduces down into a thick, glossy syrup (about 20 minutes). It’s not extremely sweet, but I like it that way.

The strained-out rhubarb solids (star anise discarded) are a classy compote in and of themselves, and a nice seasonal alternative to applesauce.