Rhubi co-founder and award-winning bartender Evan Stroeve recently launched the brand’s #JustAddRHUBI cocktail challenge. Celebrating the simplicity of Rhubi’s cocktail formula, Stroeve is inviting bartenders from across the country to use Rhubi as a secret sauce in their cocktail making.

Speaking about the competition, Stroeve told The Shout that the challenge is all about the versatility of Rhubi and the ease of switching it with key ingredients in classic cocktails.

“The competition that we’re running is called #JustAddRHUBI and the principle behind that was that we created Rhubi to be a really versatile ingredient. We obviously made it for bartenders, and bartenders have a love of creativity and creating their own drinks.

“The competition was only just announced a few days ago, but we’ve had good traction so far. I’ve had a lot of bartenders DMing me about the drinks they’re coming up with and telling me they’re going to enter, so it’s going to be a really good month ahead.

“We wanted the competition to be really accessible and really versatile. For one of my cocktails, I chose to switch Rhubi into a Negroni. It’s a classic cocktail that many bartenders love and enjoy, and it’s also really popular with guests. It’s one of those drinks that’s more than the sum of its parts. You look at it as being very simple, it’s equal amounts, gin, usually Italian aperitif and vermouth, but just switching out Rhubi and keeping the gin and vermouth makes for a really interesting Negroni twist that heroes and champions Australian distilleries.”

Explaining how he’d tackle the #JustAddRhubi challenge, Stroeve said that the easiest step for bartenders is to start with a classic and put their own Rhubi twist on it.

“Obviously you’ve got hundreds of classics in the cocktail world, but things like a Cosmopolitan, or things that are bright and fresh like a Tom Collins, a Mai Tai, a Margarita or even a classic Sour are a good place to start. I’d look at those structures and templates and see what I can switch Rhubi in for, or where Rhubi could be used as an inclusion.

“For those who are feeling a little bit more adventurous and a little bit more Inspired, maybe then you can kind of branch off and work on a Rhubi cocktail that is bespoke.”

Beyond the cocktail competition, Stroeve had advice for bartenders who are looking to incorporate Rhubi into their cocktail menu over the summer period.

“I think Rhubi is at its best when it works with bubbles. Whether that be a Spritz, a Collins twist, a Gin Rickey or something along those lines with some carbonation, either a sparkling wine, soda or tonic, I think that’s where Rhubi really stands up tall.

“Coming into summer, every bar in the world sells a million Margaritas or Cosmopolitans, Rhubi can slot really well into that Triple Sec or Curacao position. So, rather than using Cointreau in your Margarita, you might consider Rhubi, it adds the same kind of citrusy brightness but with a little undertone of earthy rhubarb and juniper – it’s delicious.”

As well as leading the cocktail competition, Stroeve has been keeping himself busy with preparation for the opening of his new venue, The Waratah. In partnership with Icebergs’ Alex Prichard, the inner-city cocktail bar is set to launch before the end of the year. Taking a quick break from renovations to chat to Bars and Clubs, Evan was excited to tease some of the venue’s offering.

“I’m here right now, and we have a hand painted mural based on my mums artwork that’s just been finished. Our stainless steel has just gone in, a few more joinery pieces, and we should be ready to open.

“It’s a two level venue, downstairs will be quite colloquial, friendly and familiar, think a classic Australian pub setting with a focus on Australian producers, cocktails and tap beers. Upstairs will have that same golden thread, the love of country and connection to growers, but we’re going to refine and modernise the cocktail list so that it’s a little bit more 2023. It’ll be the same with the food, modern Australian.”

Showcasing his secret sauce, Stroeve says there will be a Waratah Spritz available on tap at the new venue, made up of Rhubi, watermelon wine, lemon myrtle and vanilla from the Daintree Rainforest.

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